The Jewish people have a history of hope that rises from tragedy. Usually a place of heartbreaking separation and concern, the IDF induction center yesterday was a place of rejoicing and an affirmation of life.
The story began eighteen years ago in Tel Aviv, on March 21, 1977, 1:40 pm. It was the eve of Purim and Israel should have been celebrating. A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated an explosive device which was concealed in a handbag in the entrance to the coffee shop “Apropo”.
The force of the explosion killed three young women in their early 30s, Michal Avrahami, Yael Gilad, and Anat Winter-Rosen. 48 others were injured. Anat was there with her six-month old daughter. In an act that personifies Jewish motherhood, Anat shielded her infant daughter with her own body, saving her from all but minor injuries. All of Israel cried at the image of a distraught Israeli Policewoman running from the scene of death and destruction, an infant dressed in a clown costume for Purim in her arms.
On Sunday, a grown-up Shani arrived at the IDF induction center to begin her mandatory army service. Shani still has two small scars from the bombing; one on her hand and one on her leg, but the scars that are unseen go much deeper. “I’m the baby from the Café Apropo bombing, and I’ll carry that for the rest of my life,” said Shani, who was raised by her father Micky. “I’m jealous of my friends who have mothers. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother. On the other hand, I find comfort in the fact my mother saved me. That I was a part of her, and she protected me.”
A bystander who rushed to the scene found baby Shani and rushed to give her to Ziona Bushri, the first policeman he saw. Zehava, Shani’s grandmother said, “It was very important to me to locate Ziona after the attack, and I’ve since adopted her as part of the family.” Ziona has been a close to Shani and her family, accompanying her to her army induction. “Memories of this awful bombing accompany me every day,” Ziona said. “I will never forget the moment I picked Shani up and ran to search for her family. And here she is, the baby we all remember has grown up and is joining the IDF. I embrace her and cross my fingers that she succeeds.”
In 1997, Staff Sergeant Ziona Bushri was a traffic policewoman in the Tel Aviv Police Department. Today, she’s a senior staff sergeant major and serves in the Tel Aviv District’s Prosecution Division. Ziona, 46, is a mother of two girls and a boy, and lives in Yavne with her family.