Child survivor of Sbarro attack describes growing up without mother, still on life support 19 years later

Sarah Shalev was only three when a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up at the popular Jerusalem eatery, killing 15 and wounding well over 100 civilians.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A child survivor of the Sbarro bombing spoke to Channel 20 News on Monday, a day after the 19th anniversary of the attack on the Jerusalem eatery that left 15 dead, half of them children, and wounded some 130 in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Israeli history.

Sarah Shalev, the only child of two American immigrants, was almost 3 years old when she and her mother, Chana Nachenberg, entered the popular restaurant on Aug. 9, 2001.

Sarah remembers the fire caused by the explosion, seeing her mother on the floor surrounded by medics, and the ambulance ride to the hospital.

While Shalev luckily escaped physically unscathed, her mother did not. Nachenberg remains hospitalized to this day in a permanent vegetative state.

Shalev was brought up by her father and maternal grandparents in Modiin.

When asked by the interviewer what it has been like to grow up with a mother in a coma all these years, Shalev said, “There are a lot of things she missed out on in my life. My bat mitzvah, my wedding, the birth of my daughter.”

But it was difficult to say how her mother would have felt on all these occasions, she added, “because I don’t remember her…. It’s hard. It’s very hard,” she concluded.

The suicide bomber was a 22-year-old Palestinian, Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, from a middle-class family. The Hamas member had been driven to the restaurant from his village in Samaria and blew himself up with a device containing five-to-10 kilograms of explosives, nails, nuts and bolts in order to exponentially increase the damage of the blast.

Al-Masri’s Hamas accomplice, who had chosen the site at the heart of the capital because it was always full of people, was Jordanian national Ahlam Tamimi. She was soon captured and sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms for her part in the attack.

However, in 2011 she was one of the 1,027 terrorists released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal and expelled to Jordan. She has since become a popular television host who has bragged several times of her joy in killing Jews, especially children, in interviews that can be seen online.

Tamimi is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for her crimes, which include “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death.” Two American citizens were killed in the bombing – Malki Roth, 15, and Judith Greenbaum, 31, who was pregnant at the time.  Four Americans were also injured, including Nachenberg.

The American government has quietly appealed to Amman several times over the years for Tamimi’s extradition, but has been repeatedly rebuffed. In mid-June, the Trump administration warned Jordan that it is considering withholding much-needed military and economic aid if Tamimi is not handed over.