To not be impolite, you instinctively avert your eyes when you first see Kinneret Boosany. The burns cover a good part of her face and continue down, encompassing 60 percent of her body.
She wears a pressure suit 24 hours a day to keep the 17-month-old burns from inflating and opening. Burns are prone to infections, and Kinneret has had them all. She keeps out of the sun and has to be in a cooled environment because the burns are still hot, the suit makes her hotter, and her body can't produce sweat.
At Tel Hashomer Hospital's (search) rehabilitation center near Tel Aviv, physical therapists stretch and tear her burns to keep them from bunching up and contorting her body. She is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and missing a lung. She is 25 years old and still gorgeous. There is only one thing for which the former model and dancer can thank the homicide bomber who did this to her:
"I don't have to shave my legs anymore," she laughs darkly.
This Sept. 13 marks the 10th anniversary of the 1993 handshake between Yitzhak Rabin (search) and Yasser Arafat (search) on the White House lawn, after which homicide bombings became a lifestyle choice for Palestinian families.
Kinneret is among the "injured," those vastly higher statistics than the body count, which are even more easily dismissed than the routine Israeli deaths. Hers is just one of thousands of human-interest stories that 10 years of the Oslo Accords (search) have produced, many--perhaps most-- of which have gone unreported by the media.
During the spate of homicide bombings in March of last year, Kinneret and her co-workers at "My Coffee Shop" on Tel Aviv's busy Allenby Street (search) joked about it happening at their cafe because the location was so prime.
"We decided that the bartender would be safest because he could just duck behind the bar," she recalled.
The bomber came that March 30. Kinneret was bartending when a customer asked for coffee. She turned to fix it for him, and he detonated. Kinneret was thrown back against the wall of liquor. She fell to the ground and everything, including the refrigerator, fell on her. All that could be seen of her when the ambulances arrived was a hand. A paramedic had to hold the hand up to keep it from falling off and the skin from sloughing downward.
All this her family and friends had to tell her, because Kinneret remembers none of it even though she never lost consciousness--not until she got to the hospital and the doctors sedated her for four months. They gave her a 16 percent chance of survival. She fought, and in July she awoke to her 24th birthday and to a stranger standing over her on crutches, giving her moral support. The stranger, named Meytal, is now a close friend. She had survived a 1996 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center (search) when she was 27, losing her younger brother and a leg.
The last time I was in Israel was August 1993, the month that the Oslo Accords were made public. I went back again this past August for my cousin's wedding near Beersheba. As we celebrated, 40 miles away a Hamas terrorist was vaporized by an Israeli helicopter while he was transporting mortar shells. The following Sunday we ate dinner at an outdoor Tel Aviv café five meters from the spot where two weeks earlier an Arabic man killed a Jewish man while on a stabbing spree. And most attacks on Israelis don't happen in Tel Aviv.
Contemplating a shekel-per-customer "security charge" on the bill at another restaurant--necessary to pay for the salary of the guard at the entrance--a visitor begins to understand what it is to be a nation under siege, absorbing fire that would be more evenly distributed throughout the Western world if Israel weren't conveniently located on the front lines.
As America this week mourns Sept. 11, Kinneret's friend and self-described truth disseminator Sheila Raviv points out that the Jewish calendar is dotted with many smaller September Elevenths.
The state pays a Philippine woman to be Kinneret's domestic helper 16 hours a day. The woman is part of Tel Aviv's burgeoning community of migrant laborers from the Philippines, who can always find reliable work in Israel assisting terror victims, a booming industry since the start of Oslo. There are so many handicapped, maimed or crippled Israeli children since 1993 that caring for young invalids has become a uniformed national service alternative to the army for female high school graduates.
And yet Kinneret remains "totally left," as she calls herself, certain that the Palestinians are suffering as much as Israelis and want peace as much as Israelis do. It's not for nothing that Raviv has dubbed her "the Ann Frank of the Intifadah."
"Even though I am burned," Kinneret once told Raviv, "I can walk, talk and breathe."
That's more than Steve Averbach can do. For now, the 37 year-old husband and father of four lives in the neurological wing of the rehab center at Tel Hashomer, where Jews and Arabs get equal care. Breathing and talking are recent breakthroughs for Steve after an early morning bus bombing in Jerusalem last May left him paralyzed from the neck down.
He doesn't smile and gives one-word answers. Asked about his emotional process in the aftermath, the anti-terrorism expert answers "immediate and total acceptance," reluctant to tell yet another reporter that he cries himself to sleep, as one local paper reported. Steve used to get up at four every morning for work and come home ten at night. Weekends were for horsing around with the kids. Now his days look different: "They wake me up and two people help me into a chair from the bed. They wash me and take me to physical therapy."
In the orthopedic rehab wing across the hall, a double amputee named Shlomo gets help from his Philippine assistant as he learns to use his prosthetic arm and leg. He lost the real ones last year at Netanya's Jeremy Hotel when Arabic gunmen killed two and injured 50 in what turned out to be a precursor to the Passover Massacre (search) at Netanya's Park Hotel.
June 1 is Anna Kazachkova's Sept. 11. She lost her 16-year-old daughter, also Anna, on that day in 2001 when a homicide bomber killed 21 people and injured 120--mostly teenagers attending a dance--at the Dolphin disco in Tel Aviv (search). At the time, Mrs. Kazachkova was a month away from taking an exam to become a pediatric surgeon. After the attack she lost her concentration and part of her memory and to this day has not taken the exam. Her days alternate between going to therapy and going to the cemetery with the other parents who lost their children in the attack. Her son, Anna's brother Alex, is now 14.
"There is silence between us," Mrs. Kazachkova says, "except when he says it's empty without her."
After our phone conversation, which I'd stumbled into while trying to reach someone else, I had a fleeting memory of a pin I'd randomly picked from a basket that was thrust at me during a rally in New York last year. The basket had hundreds of pins, each one with a photo of a different victim of a different act of terror in Israel. Mine pictured a girl whose name I didn't recall and for whom I said exactly one prayer before finally discarding the button months later.
A memorial now stands in front of the seaside Dolphin disco. As I passed it, an old man holding a vigil had me light a candle. Curious to put a face with the name of the girl whose mother I'd fortuitously gotten on the phone, I looked at the photographs of those killed, which hung along the fence behind the memorial. I recognized the face above the name Kazachkova. It was the face from the pin that I discarded a year ago.