Not one of the 250 guests sitting down for their Passover Eve seder at the Park Netanya Hotel in 2002 could have foreseen their fate. At 7:15 p.m. a terrorist infiltrated the building and detonated the powerful bomb strapped to his body, killing 30 and wounding 140 others. It was the 53rd suicide bombing of the Second Intifada, and the deadly results led to Operation Defensive Shield, the wide-scale IDF operation to destroy Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.
Now, a decade later, 19-year-old Raziel Amir recalls being at the hotel with his parents, Etti and Motti Amir, as well as his cousin, to celebrate the seder. “I will never be able to erase those horrors from my memory,” Amir said.
Amir, who is currently enrolled at a military preparatory school in Peduel, says that he wants to join “the most combat-intensive unit possible.” Getting permission to do so took some convincing, however, he says with a smile. “My mother is a special woman, I admire her, it took a complicated campaign of persuasion to get her to sign a waiver to allow me to serve in a combat unit,” he said. The waiver was necessary as Amir is an only child.
The murderous event had long-term reverberations, and three years later Amir’s father died of a heart attack at the age of 47.
Amir recalled the horrific events, saying, “We stood near a booth in the lobby and were on our way to our table. We opened the door to the dining hall and at that moment there was a massive explosion. Everything became confusing, I could not understand what was going on. In a fraction of a second I was on the floor with a chunk of concrete on top of me. I got up from the rubble and saw a room turned completely upside down, and the difficult images of the wounded yelling for help and dead people strewn all around me. My dad yelled, ‘It’s a terrorist attack,’ and I yelled back, ‘Dad, I’m alive.’ We tried to escape outside, but we feared there was another terrorist outside.” Amir and his father were evacuated with moderate wounds while Amir’s cousin and mother were lightly wounded.
Amir’s mother Etti intended to go to the memorial service that will take place on Tuesday afternoon at the Park Hotel. “I am proud of my Raziel,” she said of her son, who volunteers and is a counselor at the One Family foundation, which helps victims of terrorism.
Since the event, Amir has not returned to the hotel. “I did everything possible to avoid the area, anything just not to deal with the pain of the past,” he said. “With that, I get a nauseous feeling just being in the area. I smell the horrible stench and see the awful sights of destruction and the dead. It was a tragedy for all of us, and my father paid the price. Even now, after every terrorist attack, like the one that just happened in Toulouse, I get taken back to that dinner. I hear the reports in Toulouse and say to myself, ‘I know exactly what they are going through,’ but it made me stronger. I have fallen down so hard that I am no longer scared.”