As the morning sunlight crept over the limestone walls of Jerusalem's old city, two young Americans flagged down a bus and got on. It was 6:45 am, February 25, 1996-an otherwise ordinary Sunday in Israel. Sara Duker and Matthew Eisenfeld settled into their seats as the door closed on Jerusalem's Number 18 bus which would take them across the spine of this ancient city of hills. On this day, they had risen earlier than normal in the hope of touring an archaeological site. After a few more stops, their bus turned on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road and rolled up a slight hill and stopped again. A young man, who seemed to be a student and was carrying a black duffle bag, got on. No one paid much attention to him, witnesses said later. Students carrying duffle bags or backpacks are a common sight in Jerusalem. But this man was no student. He took a seat. After several more stops, he stood and pushed a button attached to his duffle bag-and set off a huge bomb. Sara and Matthew died in the explosion. So did 24 others, along with the bomber. Their grieving families of the Americans set out to get answers and justice. So begins the story of "The Bus on Jaffa Road."
The narrative weaves from the streets of Jerusalem to a West Bank refugee camp to the White House, the Congress and a U.S. courtroom where the victims' families filed a lawsuit against Iran for financing the bombing-then to a prison in the Negev desert in Israel where the author confronts the man who build the bomb on the Jaffa Road bus. It is a story that prefigures many of the difficulties of America's "war on terrorism" and reminds us of the intractable nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that continues to this day.
Mike Kelly has been a journalist for more than three decades. He is the author of two books as well as numerous prize-winning newspaper projects and columns for The Bergen Record, a daily newspaper in northern New Jersey. His assignments have taken him to Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel (including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), and Iraq. He has covered the 9/11 attacks and the clean-up of Ground Zero, the "Good Friday Peace Accords" in Belfast, the Iraq War in which he followed a National Guard unit from training to the combat zone, Hurricane Katrina (in New Orleans), the impeachment of President Clinton, and the 9/11 Commission hearings in Washington, D.C.Since the 9/11 attacks, he has devoted much of his time to covering terrorism, from Ground Zero to Washington, D.C. (with the 9-11 Commission) to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (to write about the terrorist detention prisons) and to Malaysia. In traveling to Malaysia, Kelly traced the recycling journey of a single steel beam from the World Trade Center. He then tracked down the people on the trade center floor supported by that steel beam and traced how they were rebuilding their lives. While in Malaysia, he also found the apartment where the 9-11 plot was first planned. Later, in New Jersey, he found the tiny motel room where two of the hijackers at that Malaysia meeting ended up staying before carrying out the plot. In 2011, for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Kelly found the survivors form the 70th floor that he had profiled a decade earlier and updated their lives. Kelly was named the top columnist in America in 2004 and in 2011 by the National Association of Newspaper Columnists. In 2001, the New Jersey Press Association named him "Journalist of the Year" for his reporting from the Middle East and from Ground Zero. Other major honors include New York Deadline Club prize for column writing, the Meyer Berger Award from Columbia University, and a national Clarion Award for feature writing. He was also among 25 New York area journalists singled out by the New York City Fire Department for a special honor for his coverage from the site of the World Trade Center.Kelly is a regular guest on television as well as numerous radio programs. He has appeared on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" as a guest commentator and was a guest host for the WNYC radio show, "On The Line." He has also been featured on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," on the "CBS Evening News," and on the award-winning PBS program, "Bill Moyers Journal."Kelly's 1995 non-fiction book about racial turmoil, "Color Lines: The Troubled Dreams of Racial Harmony In an American Town," was called "American journalism at its best" by The Washington Post and a "stunning piece of American social history" by Pulitzer-prize winning author J. Anthony Lukas. In 2000, Camino Press of Philadelphia published a collection of his columns, "Fresh Jersey: Stories from an Altered State." Kelly graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in American studies and journalism, and is currently working on a masters degree in historical theology at Fordham University in New York. He is married and the father of two adult daughters. He lives in Teaneck, N.J.