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Friday, June 18, 2004

A story from Israel you'll not hear on CNN

The Mommy Who Busted the Bomber by Toby Klein Greenwald
Jewish World Review: My friend, Shlomit (not her real name), doesn't look like your typical terrorist hunter. She wears a sheitels (wig worn by religious women as a sign of modesty) and arch supports. In addition to her regular job, she scoots around the country, giving a lecture here, taking a class there. She cooks for families in distress and she bakes cakes to pass out to soldiers manning roadblocks. She's always on a diet.

But last week, Shlomit became a hero.

Shlomit was driving on a main highway in Israel, on her way to a town inside the green line, to visit her married daughter and grandchildren. She found herself behind a large garbage truck, but, not being in a hurry and preferring not to pass on a busy road, she drove contentedly along behind him, listening to a CD of Devora Gila, a religious female Joan Baez-type singer. The yellow license plate on the truck in front of her indicated that it was owned by an Israeli. The cars of Palestinian drivers living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority have white or green plates. There are, however, Arab-owned vehicles with yellow plates — those belonging to Arab residents of East Jerusalem.

After a while Shlomit noticed that other cars were flying by them, but a car with white plates remained steadfastly behind her. She was sandwiched between the two.

After a while, the garbage truck pulled over to the side of the road and Shlomit passed it. Something made her glance up at her rear view mirror, and she saw that the Palestinian car was also pulling over. Shlomit saw the driver get out and hand a small package to the driver of the garbage truck.

This, she thought — the transfer of something from a white-plate to a yellow-plate driver — was a little odd.

So Shlomit, being a good citizen, upon reaching a roadblock several miles up the road, told the story to a soldier manning the post.

"Would you mind sticking around for a few minutes?" he asked.

"No problem," said Shlomit and settled down with a cup of coffee kindly offered by the young man in the bulletproof vest and helmet.

A few minutes later the garbage truck rolled into the roadblock lane. Having yellow plates, it should have passed through fairly easily. But the soldiers, tipped off by Shlomit, examined his cab even more carefully than usual. They found the little package and opened it.

It contained explosives. My friend Shlomit probably saved some lives that day.

The story could end here, but it doesn't. There is a story behind the story.

Shlomit, being the road traveler she is, always carries two items in her car, in addition to her green leather purse and a water bottle. She has an instant camera and the soldiers' "bill of rights". It explains what rights a soldier has when checking an individual and someone tries to question the soldier. "I see the 'Machsom [Roadblock]-Watch' women harassing soldiers all the time," she says. "I also noticed, over time, that the day after the media reports that soldiers at a certain roadblock caught terrorists before they infiltrated, the 'Machsom-Watch' women are there, harassing the soldiers.

"In effect, the statement these women are making," says Shlomit, "is that they would rather the bombers got through and murdered Jews."

This is the reason that Shlomit won't say at which roadblock they caught the "garbage bomber" — in order not to provide the harassers with another IDF target. When Shlomit gets to a roadblock where soldiers are being harassed, she photographs the harassers and hands the soldiers a copy of their bill of rights, along with her chocolate cakes.

The moral of the story, says Shlomit, is, "Be vigilant. If you notice something unusual on the road or anywhere else, don't hesitate to point it out to a soldier, policeman or security person." Life or death can be only a heartbeat away.

How does she feel, knowing she probably saved lives that day? "I didn't do anything," says Shlomit. "It was all the hand of G-d."

And off she drove, into the sunset.