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by Rhonda Spivak, March 19, 2013

To the best of my knowledge, I have never met a Hezbollah terrorist up close. Thankfully.

Although I realize a friend of mine cannot say the same thing. In fact, this April 2013, it will be 17 years from the time when my friend, a doctor, who worked at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem met a Hezbollah terrorist up close.

I was thinking about this the other day while I was going through an 1996 photo album from when I spent a year in Jerusalem working as a lawyer at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

It was in February of that year when suicide bombers began blowing up Egged buses in Jerusalem, and I, who had up until then been taking buses to work, switched to driving our white Subaru car. I choose the challenge of navigating and getting lost in the maze of Jerusalem roads and searching for parking spots rather than going back on the bus.

Hospitals in Jerusalem found themselves treating the victims of these bombings, seeing and talking to their loved ones. In February and March of 1996, sixty-two people died in four attacks in Israel.

April 12, 1996 was a different day for my doctor friend.
On that day, a blast ripped through a room in a little known hotel, the Lawrence Hotel on 18 Salah A Din St., the main street of East Jerusalem, which leads to Damascus Gate. A hotel guest was wounded in what was described as a "work accident". The hotel guest was Hussein Muhamad Hussein Mikdad (a Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim from the village of Farun), who was a member of Hezbollah.

At the time of the explosion, he had been carrying forged British identification, and appeared as Andrew Jonathan Charles Newman. He was associated with Sheikh Fadlallah, and before leaving for Israel, he spent time in the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, having arrived in Israel on a Swissair flight from Zurich. After spending a few days in Tel Aviv, he moved to the Lawrence Hotel. There were discussions about what Mikdad had intended to bomb, and the early theories were that he had intended to blow up an airplane.

Mikdad, who was age 33 with a thin mustache, was severely injured and was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem to a unit where my friend worked. As a result of his "work accident” my friend told me, "He had lost both legs and one arm, was blind in one both eyes and had lost most of his hearing." Some doctors thought it was miraculous that he had survived. My friend wondered whether his injuries which were so extensive were punishment enough for what he had tried to do, but maybe it wasn't, as he may still try to poison the young minds of others.

There were no doubt moral dilemmas for the hospital staff who provided care for him.

He was treated for humanitarian reasons, albeit he had intended on destroying so many Israeli lives.

On the other hand, if he regained consciousness, he would no doubt be questioned by the Israel Defense forces who would try to glean any relevant information from him. They stationed a Shin Bet guard around his hospital bed 24 hours a day.

Regarding the bomb Mikdad had made, a Jerusalem Police spokesperson said that investigations “determined that the type of explosive which blew up in his room at the hotel was RDX, weighing less than 1 kilogram. A Sony multi-band clock radio, modified for concealment, and serving as a bomb timer, was found in his belongings. The timer was connected to the explosives, and was connected to an external switch. Detonating the explosives was accomplished using a hollow rubber tube, which had replaced the radio's AM antenna."

The doctor I know who treated Mikdad, who was married with a two year old daughter at the time, told me he did not know what ever happened to him--whether he survived or died. When the doctor ceased working at the hospital, Mikdad was still being treated there.

It is only now, 17 years later, through searching on the internet that I was able to tell the doctor that Mikdad, did in fact leave the hospital, as is clear from an article in the New York Times written several months after the incident in November 1996.

In it, the New York Times wrote, "Israeli authorities declined to allow an interview with him at the prison where he is undergoing interrogation." ... those who have spoken with Mikdad say that he does not regard himself as a terrorist but rather as a soldier whose primary motivation was religious. He believed in the jihad, or holy war, against Israel.

According to the New York Times, a Shin Bet official said of Mikdad, 'Sometimes he cooperates. Sometimes he doesn't. He is very talented, very clever. He knows well what he is doing and saying. People don't like to speak, but they speak when they are in great trouble. He is religious. He believes that what has happened is God's will.'

It is only now upon reading the New York Times article that I have told my doctor friend that Mikdad, the man he had treated, had studied business administration at the Arab University in Beirut in the late 1980's, and was an accountant before he became a terrorist.

My friend's response, “Who was it who said, you can never trust accountants?"

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.