a different side of Israel

Living with the “cult of suicide”

Suicide bombing in Tel AViv
Taken on the scene of the April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Credit: Lisa Goldman

I guess a lot of regular OJ readers were expecting a post about the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on April 17, or at least the day after. Instead, we wrote about art galleries and the Passover holiday.


Well, lots of reasons – one of them being that life in Israel doesn’t stop, or even slow down, when there is a terror attack. The sad fact is that we have become all-but completely inured to these horrors. It’s too difficult to wonder constantly about what would motivate a human being to strap a bomb filled with long nails on his body, walk into a restaurant and detonate himself. It’s too hard to mourn individually for all the dead. It’s too exhausting to analyze what all this means for the future of our part of the world.

And, forgive the cliche, life does go on.

I happened to be quite near the site of Monday’s bombing when it occured. I covered the story as a journalist, and wrote about it on my personal blog.

That post, plus the one I wrote about reactions among Israeli bloggers for Global Voices Online, got an awful lot of traffic. There is something about suicide bombings that is simultaneously horrifying and morbidly fascinating. For many reasons, people want to know more and more about the who, how, where and why.

Or, as Bradley Burston put it in this very well-written column for Haaretz, “Suicide is the ultimate pornography.”

We cannot look away, it hits too deep in the human imagination. Perhaps that is because suicide constitutes the ultimate mystery. Anxious to know why a suicide takes the decision, we can only ask those who fail at it. Those who succeed at it, remain precisely as indecipherable as death itself.

In the lexicon of suicide, there are few acts more obscenely pornographic than human bombs who target the innocent and the uninvolved.

Read Burston’s article for an excellent analysis of why suicide bombings are, in a perverse way, “popular” among some people – and why, ultimately, they will serve to isolate the Palestinians from the global community and work against their cause.


  1. Excellent 🙂

  2. Lisa, This is an incredible piece of work. By far what I found most amazing was how you could stand in the midst of that scene and rise above all prejudice and protect the Arab children as though they were your own. The anger, pain and sorrow you must have been feeling, and still the Love of God shines through! Thank you Lisa for that beautiful reflection of our Awesome God of Love!

    Bradley is right; We can not look away. We must learn to embrace the mourning with all that we’ve got. And instead of crying WHY? We need to cry WHAT? What can “I” do now? Those of you who are in the business of bringing this to light have no doubt already asked that question, thus your mission. But how does one get the masses to understand that if they do not learn to embrace the mourning, they may never embrace the morning of a new day?

  3. Oh, are you *that* Lisa. I hadn’t realised.

  4. Dear Lisa,

    (I have been to your site and looked for your email address but could not see it anywhere.)

    Thank you for your politeness to me on Allison’s site in answering my question about dogs and Islam.

    I really appreciate it.


  5. Very well written, I often wondered what keeps
    the Isralis ticking and keeping their sanity,

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