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Anniversary of Dolphinarium bombing and the lost decade

I went for a walk along the shore yesterday evening, just shy of a stunning sunset. Late-Friday afternoons are essential to understanding Israel, and Tel Aviv in particular; there is a shared serenity that lulls the residents. Everyone can share in the calm and natural beauty of the sea: it’s free.

LGBT flags lining the sea road, Tel Aviv, 1 June, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Seashore facing south towards Jaffa, 1 June, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Tel Aviv-Jaffa promenade, 1 June, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)


As I walked south towards Jaffa, a girl was handing out flyers. Something about her seemed a little apologetic, or perhaps almost hopeful. On impulse, I took the flyer and walked on, preparing to stuff it into my pocket after I had passed her. In those paces, I glanced at the page.


May 31, 2001. Things were different. 9/11 had not happened yet. The Second Intifada was only eight months old, not yet a lost decade for Israelis and Palestinians in the search for peace, justice, security.

It was Thursday, and someone was having a party. High on urban energy, a few of us then burst out into the night, following the fun. Friends invited us to another party, at some club on the southern part of the beach.

It was close to midnight when I ventured down there with a girlfriend. The party didn’t look very promising – the club was dark, cave-like, predictably loud. We took more pleasure in gazing at the walls after discovering somewhat neglected aquariums holding forlorn-looking fish. Still, fish have mystique, and their silent, glowing tanks were a quirky juxtaposition with the throbbing, pulsing club. I think they held mainly catfish.  Someone explained that many years ago, the place had been a real aquarium that was closed and then converted. Or maybe I heard that only afterward.

Dolphinarium mural (photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

We called it a night and prepared to leave. On a counter near the exit, someone had placed a tray of peeled lichees, for the sweaty partygoers to nibble as they left. The sloshy fruit was swimming in juice. We marveled again at another unexpected, random treat, and licked the sticky stuff off our fingers on the way out.

June 1, 2001. Friday night. Energy spent, I was now primed for a quiet summer night at a friends’ place in the north of the city. We were stocked with food, a video, and two luxurious sofas. I think it was a light movie.

About halfway through the film, there was a deep boom outside. It sounded dark, finite, and distant – but not the way a sonic boom is distant. We looked at each other. Let’s wait five minutes, she said, then we’ll turn on the news.

But before those minute were up, sirens were wailing, passing us from north to south.  We looked at each other again, stomachs knotting.

The news. Jagged camera angles, running cameramen.  Blood on the pavement, patchy reports, scattered details, like each stroke of an impressionist painting flying through the air, converging slowly before forming the image. Wounded. Dead. Kids. A line of bodies at a nightclub on the beach, in the south of the city.

The phone rang, and  it was our friend who had been with me with the previous night. Her voice was urgent, almost accusing: “That’s where we were last night, isn’t it? Isn’t it!”


Yesterday was the 11th anniversary.  The oldest victim was Uri, 32, who had parked his car there and was coming to retrieve it. Twenty more people died as they milled about outside near midnight. They were 25 and under; just seven were over 18. Four victims were 16, five were 15, and the youngest was 14. Except for Uri, they were all former Soviet immigrants. 108 were wounded. The bereaved father of a 17-year old, an only child, said later in an interview for a book that he had thought she deserved to go out that night, after getting a high grade on a literature exam. When he heard the news, he immediately drove toward the Dolphinarium, sobbing. He also said that her brand-new watch stopped at twenty to midnight.


The page in my hand was plain white, crudely printed with casual Hebrew that might have been written by young folks, or perhaps by someone writing in a second language. There was Russian on the other side. I’ve translated the Hebrew literally, minus a few technical details:

We’ll never stop dancing 2012, in memory of the Dolphinarium tragedy.

For the last 11 years, we’ve been meeting on June 1, in one place – the “Dolphinarium”

Every year we observe the memory of 21 victims who fell, youths who will never have fun with us again, and will continue smiling at us only from the pages of their photographs.

At 11:45pm, there will be a mock siren, coming from our car alarms. This year, we want to have a march …At the end of the march, the siren will be heard.

…we hope that rollerbladers and cyclists will join us.

We’ll end the evening with an improvised show and we hope that you’ll participate.

May their memory be blessed.


I have never marked the event and I have long since forgotten the date. So on this quiet Friday night in early summer 11 years later, I remembered those things and I want to say this: I miss those kids. I felt sad for this lady.

Memorial for victims of Dolphinarium bombing, 1 June, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

I believe that the killing of children and civilians is dehumanization of all concerned and inexcusable.

It feels like political time froze at twenty to midnight, 2001; instead of advancing towards a more peaceful environment, the intifada went on for years, two more wars were fought, the occupation continues, and this is madness. The situation is poised to change for the worse.

I don’t want anyone to threaten me with violence for political gain. I don’t want anyone to be driven to violence for the sake of political folly. Everyone who is not actively working for (or supporting) an urgent resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation is also complicit in dehumanization.

This is what I want to see when I walk down the beach.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa promenade, 1 June 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

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    1. caden

      When you broke down the statistical makeup of the suicide bombing victims of that time you can see that the palestinians deliberately targeted younger Jewish girls

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      I support avoiding more Dolphinariums using any means that make sense, but those do not include making concessions for the express purpose of preventing ‘anyone to be driven to violence’.

      The current situation is fundamentally more peaceful than that of June 1st 2001 and it got that way not by surrendering to Hamas. Or for that matter by following any of the policy suggestions that the left and the Europeans laid out in 2001. As far as I recall those suggestions revolved around the idea that Israel should remove the desire of the Palestinians to kill Israeli civilians by making concessions rather than ruthlessly targeting the Palestinian terrorists’ ability to launch attacks. This is not madness? To offer concessions in the face of an enemy that sees no concession as sufficient?

      There is no urgency in resolving the conflict. It is here today and it will be here tomorrow. Eventually it might be resolved. The urgency is all in your mind and in that of others infected 20 years ago with the hope that peace was close and having tasted that hope are incapable of accepting all evidence, like the Dolphinarium, that demonstrate that the hope was an illusion. Those so self-centered as to believe that their unrepresentative will alone is sufficient to overcome the enmity of generations and the incompatibility of the visions of the two national movements. How many peace conferences need to fail and how many Dolphinariums need to follow before it is understood that comprehensive peace is not presently achievable and that driving in that direction only ensures bouts of violence? This is not madness as Einstein would define it?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Frankly I don’t give a damn how Einstein would define it, but I would define it as being unable to answer the simple question: if the refugees could get in from the Sinai, doesn’t that imply that suicide bombers could too — if there was anyone who wanted to send them?

      Reply to Comment
    4. caden

      The reason there haven’t been any suicide bombers lately is because of the wall and because the palestinians know that there will be retribution. And that’s it. Also, it didn’t get them anywhere

      Reply to Comment
    5. Logic isn’t your strong point, is it, Caden?

      Reply to Comment
    6. There are thousands of Palestinians in Israel at any given point. The wall doesn’t stop them. Suicide bombings stopped because Palestinian leadership recognized it is not doing much to advance their cause and just giving Israel an excuse to ratchet up its oppression, killings, land grabs, etc.

      I know there is no urgency in your mind and that Apartheid is pretty much the Israeli solution but the world will not accept Apartheid in the 21st century.

      Reply to Comment
    7. AYLA

      This is beautiful, Dahlia. @Ahad, I think Dahlia is saying that a sense of urgency is our moral obligation. Let’s not allow a few people who comment on every thread here to derail us from the primary piece and the author’s call to action.

      Reply to Comment
    8. AYLA

      p.s. Ahad–and of course you’re right: if palestinians wanted to be suicide bombing right now, rather than protesting peacefully, and daily, they would be. but for some commenters–most of whom don’t live anywhere near here–there’s only the party line.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Kolumn9

      Yep. There are no suicide bombings because the IDF destroyed the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank and prevented the movement of Palestinians into Israel by using checkpoints and the wall. You can pretend all you like that the Palestinians voluntarily made the choice to stop suicide bombings. A basic review of the existing data on attempts to organize suicide bombings would demonstrate that the IDF managed to prevent or interdict sufficient numbers that the suicide bombing strategy was no longer viable. Once this became clear and it became clear that no achievements were forthcoming the PA began to cooperate with Israel to stabilize the situation and reestablished intelligence coordination. That you are not seeing suicide bombings is the result of the cooption of the Tanzim by the PA and the prevention by the PA and Israel of the organization of Hamas and Islamic Jihad cells in the West Bank. The whole argument about suicide bombers not coming in through the Sinai is equally bogus. There are no major targets for suicide bombers that are easily reachable after crossing into Israel from the Sinai. Sneaking in to blow up on a moshav is silly. That doesn’t mean that terrorists haven’t bothered to attack through the Sinai to inflict damage. Perhaps someone wasn’t paying attention when terrorists snuck into Israel to ambush a bus a few months ago?

      Again I am threatened with this mythical moral world that will or will not accept this or that followed by a nonsensical analysis of the situation. Again I must ask where is this world in dealing with Africa, or closer to the subject at hand – Syria? Did the ‘world’ do much to prevent the slaughter in Darfur? How about Rwanda? How about the abject poverty all over the world? Is this the same ‘world’ where this ‘extreme’ Israeli government is on friendly terms with every major global power and has trade agreements with every major bloc of countries? Is this the same ‘world’ that sent a record number of tourists to Israel this year? Occam’s Razor says your ‘world’ is an illusion.

      Just so I am clear, there is no actual urgency, but a rhetorical moral obligation to have a sense of urgency? Rhetorical moral obligations are certainly good companions for rhetorical unworkable proposed solutions.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Alan

      Since the suicide bombings stopped after the security barrier was erected, logic would lead one to deduce that the barrier was effective in stopping the waves of Palestinian violence against Israelis. It’s also important to remember that, for a long period after the barrier went up, would-be suicide bombers were routinely caught trying to get into Israel. Maybe, just maybe, the Palestinian leadership realized that it was useless trying to get suicide bombers past the security barrier.

      Ayla and Ahad– maybe, just maybe, the Palestinian leadership changed tactics because the security barrier was so effective at stopping suicide bombers. @Ahad: you say that thousands of Palestinians are in Israel at any given time. How many of these Palestinians do you think have a chance of entering Israel with explosives strapped to them?

      @Ayla:” and of course you’re right: if palestinians wanted to be suicide bombing right now, rather than protesting peacefully, and daily, they would be.” Could you be any more naive? Do you actually think that Palestinians could successfully resume suicide attacks considering all the security measures in place? Of course you would be bending the party line if you were to recognize that the security barrier actually deters Palestinian violence.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Power?

      This comment has been deleted for offensive comment

      Reply to Comment
    12. Power?

      “I believe that the killing of children and civilians is dehumanization of all concerned and inexcusable.”
      This is just lol funny!
      This comment has been edited for offensive content.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Someone who in successive comments claims that Muslims worship Muhammad and sacrifice children to him would be banned in most places. I mean, most people would regard that as an extreme form of religious (and indirectly racial) bigotry.
      Alan, when you say “Since the suicide bombings stopped after the security barrier was erected, logic would lead one to deduce that the barrier was effective in stopping the waves of Palestinian violence against Israelis,” you are committing the well-known logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

      Reply to Comment
    14. @Rowan, indeed. The comments slipped through our monitoring system and have now been modified.

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      It’s often not possible to prove causality when dealing with historical events, so the observation Bombers->Wall->No-bombers may be naive and the sophisticated other explanations so much better, that a test-on-humans is warranted: down with the wall! If the bombings resume, we can always claim for another cause, such as Israel’s renewed violence.
      There are several topics where the ‘left’ shows preference to biased ‘theories’ over human life, and communism was only a stark example of this trait, which links fascism with the radical left.

      Reply to Comment
    16. You may be in the runners-up class for the Compressed Gobberish Award for that last comment, Max. Could you try and squash it a bit more, into ten words perhaps?

      Reply to Comment
    17. max

      RB, try post hoc ergo potest propter hoc.
      The wall may have been the reason, while the other ‘explanations’ are more likely the results, as one finds no pre hoc link. Of course, ‘things’ may just happen, but human life isn’t a jeton in a game of illuminare.
      Of course suicide bombers could and did come in via the Sinai open border, but you seem to forget that until not long ago the Gaza-Sinai border was also closed.
      Dahlia’s call is laudable if naive, as it’s predicated on the idea that evil is just a (justifiable) reaction.

      Reply to Comment
    18. @Max, you seem to have misunderstood my point. I wrote that terrorism against civilians is never justified in reaction to anything – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in reaction to events. There is also terror and violence that is not a direct reaction to anything, but exists because human beings contain the elements of evil in addition to the elements of good and peacefulness. We should work against that, while also understanding that we will never achieve the total eradication of violence, instead of using it as an excuse NOT to work towards resolution of conflicts. For more on this point, see: http://972mag.com/the-utopian-vision-of-security-is-killing-israel/44369/

      Reply to Comment
    19. Power?

      It’s bigotry to point out that your allies worship Mohammed? Do you guys know anything about the contemporary Ummah with whom you are so closely aligned?
      But at least Dahlia has the guts to post a link to her essay where she explains how she doesn’t believe in Peace. Strangely, though, your European friends still call any “Palestinian” and leftist “peace activists”.

      This comment has been edited for offensive content

      Reply to Comment
    20. Adam

      I realize that each 972 writer controls her own channel, but I find it strange that the most vile anti-Semitic content is never banned(the one exception has been Lisa Goldman, who repeatedly warned Rowan to stop posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about 9/11 on her channel). I’ve noticed, for example, that Rhemat routinely posts anti-Semitic material on most 972 channels.

      By the way, I’m against regulating any speech, though I do understand how lunatic conspiracy theories can derail any attempt at rational discussion.

      Reply to Comment
    21. This comment has been deleted for offensive content

      Reply to Comment
    22. Dear offensive commenters: Please re-read our comments section under the “About” page on the site. Please keep your comments on point, avoid racism, incitement and personal attacks. And please let me free up my time to write instead of playing kindergarten teacher. The only other way to do so would be to ban you from the site, but I’d rather give you all the credit of being able to contribute substantive thoughts sometimes. Thank you, Dahlia.

      Reply to Comment
    23. You don’t call the comment I was responding to a personal attack?

      Reply to Comment
    24. Let’s see if I’ve understood what your rules actually are, since they don’t seem to have much to do with what’s on your “About” page: it’s OK for a large number of right-wing trolls to follow independent commentators from thread to thread, misquoting them and accusing them of such things as “vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” but it’s not OK for their victims to reply by accusing them of being slimy, hypocritical liars. Is that it?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Jake

      The reason there have been no more bombings is because of the preventative security apparatus implemented by the Palestinian Authority. It’s a model of peaceful enforcement. As you know the wall doesn’t keep out Palestinians looking for work nor could it possibly stop the infiltration of bombers intent on harming.

      Palestinians of the west bank are largely a peace loving people. The Palestinians in the refugee camps however have been living in poor oppressive conditions since 1948 and long for their return to their homes. Israel’s refusal to deal with the refugee problem keeps this population of disenfranchised peoples simmering near the boiling point. Easy to manipulate and provoke to incitement.

      People forget that the incitement that let to the second intifada was provoked by Sharon. We have to look at the progress that was made before 2002. When the Palestinians and the Israeli’s were moving closer together. Working and even playing together. The far right has done a tremendous disservice to Israel. There would have been no stronger nation than an Israel at peace with the Palestinians. It would have given them the moral high ground in the middle-east. It would have paved the way for a renaissance of sorts with Israel leading the entire region.

      Instead, Israel finds itself completely isolated.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Regarding comments about the security barrier and the drop in terrorism: I remember a post by Lisa Goldman from over a year ago:
      “There is no checkpoint and there are no soldiers there. And there are many spots like that; the barrier is, in fact, completely porous. It demonstrably does not keep Palestinians out of Israel. It is absurd to say that its purpose is to provide security for Israelis, when anyone can just walk through it – as long as one has the time and the money. The barrier just makes it much more difficult, time consuming and expensive to travel around the West Bank and from the West Bank into Israel.”
      I asked her a question in the comments, and she replied. For some strange reason those comments aren’t there anymore. If I remember correctly, I asked whether the barrier might have been allowed to become porous, after having been relatively tight, as a *result* of the drop in terrorism. Goldman said no, it was never completed, and (if I remember correctly from a year and a half ago) quoted some security source, maybe Avi Dichter, to that effect.
      Anyway, my point is that the whole premise of your argument, which all of you seem to accept, is disputed.

      Reply to Comment
    27. I’m not sure what “premise” that is. What I have been arguing is that whatever the cause of the cessation of suicide bombings may be, it’s not the wall. That’s all.

      Reply to Comment
    28. klang

      can someone ask Larry Derfner and the rest of the 972 staff whether the Dolphinarium bombing was justified? After all, it contained future IDF members, so it can be considered a military target

      Reply to Comment
    29. How about a little research, instead of stupid leading questions? Was it Hamas’ official policy at the time that all Israelis are legitimate military targets, because they at least some of them serve in the military at some point? Or did Saeed Hotari simply chose his own target, without paying any attention to Hamas’ official policy on targets whatsoever? If it was Hamas’ official policy, it would only have been the mirror image of the supposedly halachic argument that “it is permissible to kill a gentile if he may one day become evil.” But I don’t know whether it was or not.

      Reply to Comment
    30. max

      RB, in principle, Hamas is very clear and consistent in its view: all Gazans take part in the struggle and therefore can be used as human shields, and all Jewish Israelis are enemies of the people and the religion and therefore a legitimate target.
      Your comment may make sense beyond a show of derision had the ‘halachic’ argument you brought been accepted and put to test in a theocratic Israel. As neither is true, you comment simply sucks

      Reply to Comment
    31. Do you have any evidence that what you say about Hamas’ view is or ever has been true? Something like a policy statement which actually says so? Or are you just regurgitating what the Israeli government tells you?

      Reply to Comment
    32. Haim

      By committing this horrible murder, the Palestinians wiped out any chance that the
      “Russian” immigrants in Israel will support territorial concessions for many years.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Alan

      “Do you have any evidence that what you say about Hamas’ view is or ever has been true? Something like a policy statement which actually says so? Or are you just regurgitating what the Israeli government tells you?’

      From the Hamas charter:

      Article Fifteen: The Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine is an Individual Obligation
      When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad. This would require the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses on all local, Arab and Islamic levels. We must spread the spirit of Jihad among the [Islamic] Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Alan, I don’t see the statements that Max made, that “all Gazans take part in the struggle and therefore can be used as human shields,” and that “all Jewish Israelis are enemies of the people and the religion and therefore a legitimate target.” Perhaps for you ‘jihad’ is a magic word that automatically implies these statements, but you have yet to find a text that says so.

      Reply to Comment
    35. max

      RB, there are several recorded TV ads on the web where Hamas calls people to come and serve as human shields, when expecting an IDF attack. I’m sure you can find them yourself (example http://bcove.me/4blhdorc)
      Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008:
      Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: “We desire death like you desire life.”

      Reply to Comment
    36. max

      RB, when someone states “Reconciliation with the Jews is a crime” and runs suicide bombers in Israel’s civilian centers, it’s quite safe to state what I wrote, although ‘officially’ Hamas only declared all settlers to be legitimate targets.
      But of course you know all that. So it’s probably too explicit a reasoning for sounding true to a conspiracy specialist, and your bigotry blinds you.

      Reply to Comment
    37. RichardL

      Max – I agree your link takes me to a video where a solitary English subtitle reads
      “Following a threatened airstrike: Hamas calls upon all Gaza children to gather near the of Abu Hatal in the A-Shouqaf quarter, in order to from a human shield.”
      This is a translation of what and by whom? The call was made when and by whom?
      Forgive my suspicions but you may also recall for example that Sheikh Raed Salah was nearly expelled from Britain on account of a Zionist translation that later proved to be incorrect, it is assumed maliciously so. My point here is that malicious propaganda is known to have been made by pro-Zionists so credible evidence is required to back up your claim if it is to be believed.

      I know you are not very good at references and credible analysis but it is said that practice makes perfect: have another go.

      Reply to Comment
    38. max

      Richardl, your suspicion is well founded (the translation is inaccurate – it’s not ‘children’ but ‘citizens’) and as you write I’m not very good at references and credible analysis (it may come with the genes), so I propose that you 1) search for yourself via some ‘key words’, 2) pay for some intelligence education and data sites, 3) check why Al-Aqsa TV was banned in the EU, 4) ask for an Arab-reading friend to translate, and 4) refer to the 2nd part of my 1st comment.

      Reply to Comment
    39. RichardL

      It don’t hold water Max. You can’t provide a credible source so you want me to do it for you.

      Reply to Comment
    40. max

      Richardl, Thanks for your warning, but I don’t need to hold the water!
      Is yours a remarkable laziness augmented with reading challenges or an acute bigotry?

      Reply to Comment
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