Wednesday, June 5. This morning there was another suicide bombing, this one in northern Israel. A bomb in a moving car was detonated next to a bus. At least sixteen people were killed, dozens wounded. We were on our way to Gaza when it happened, but we soon turned back. All checkpoints were closed.

“No one knows what is going to happen next.” Our driver, a Palestinian, expressed the horror of the ordinary people here. “I have lived here forty-four years,” he continued, “and it has never been so bad. Now everyone from the newborn baby to the 100-year-old woman is affected.”

Last night, I met the cousin of a suicide bomber.

Our group is having a beer, debriefing and planning the next few days. A student in our group suddenly asks, “Would you like to meet the family of a suicide bomber?” We turn to him, stunned.

He points to the man at the next table with whom he’s been chatting in Arabic about his cousin. We invite the man, who I will call Ahmed, to talk with us.

He says he feels very bad about his cousin and explains that the whole extended family is suffering in the aftermath of the bombing. He tells us how the family feels that the young man they knew was different from the one who had carried out the bombing. That he was easily manipulated, perhaps. Before the bombing, they had no idea he would do such a thing.

Ahmed’s cousin had lost his job a few weeks before his suicide attack. But, says Ahmed, “I lost my job too because of the Israelis. Many people have lost their jobs and they haven’t done anything like that.”

Ahmed worries that the world sees the Palestinian people as violent and bloodthirsty. “We just want to be left alone to live,” he explains. “We don’t like the violence or the blood. I don’t like seeing my brother killed. We want peace.”

“There was peace for so many years, from 1994 to 2000. Who ended the peace?” he asks pointedly. “It was not us who drove tanks into Tel Aviv.”

We assume that he is critical of his cousin’s action. But as our conversation continues, it becomes clear that we have assumed wrong.

Ahmed is proud. “He died for us. He died for the Palestinian people. He is a hero.” Then, in the next breath, “We wish he’d had a child so he would not have done this.”

Proud of him for what he did, Ahmed only feels badly because his cousin is dead.

“But if you call him a hero,” asks social activist Monique Simard, “won’t other young people want to do the same thing?” His reply: a shrug.

“And doesn’t it bother you that he killed innocent people?” I ask.

“They [the Israelis] kill innocent people.”

“But that’s bad, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but everything here is bad.”

Ahmed spent two years in an Israeli prison — for being a student activist, he says. At first, he doesn’t want to talk about it, and he has tears in his eyes. Later he says, “I would like you to spend just one night in that prison and wear the shirt I had to wear, summer and winter.”

He shows us a slightly mangled foot. “The Israeli soldier stood on the top of the jeep and jumped down on my foot,” he explains.

“We need an alternative,” Ahmed concedes. “But until then, we have to fight back.”

Judy Rebick

Judy Rebick

Judy Rebick is one of Canada’s best-known feminists. She was the founding publisher of , wrote our advice column and was co-host of one of our first podcasts called Reel Women....