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The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers Paperback – March 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for the hardcover edition:

"With unprecedented access to a population of failed, thwarted, or aborted suicide bombers in prison, [Dr. Berko] has created a uniquely insightful work. . . . Future suicide attackers in the United States may not precisely replicate the individuals interviewed in Israeli prisons for the research contained in this book. The Path to Paradise is, however, a critically enlightening work on a sample of existing terrorists. American counter terrorism personnel can gain much insight from Dr. Berko's research."—Counter Terrorist

(Counter Terrorist 2008-11-20)

"Berko has written an interesting book that departs from many of the typical studies of suicide bombers. Her research involved frequent and extensive conversations with Palestinians jailed by Israel for attempted suicide terrorist attacks; the author recounts, in some cases transcribes, these discussions. Equally interesting is the author's emphasis on women's roles in suicide bombing and, more broadly, the role that gender plays in shaping the logic and motivation of terrorism against Israel. As always, the issue of bias in the scholarship on the Arab-Israeli conflict is something to consider here, as the author was previously a career officer in the Israeli Defense Forces. However, that does not undermine the value of her interviews, which flesh out and reflect similar studies of terrorism that emphasize the role of humiliation and gender. The book is a fascinating look at the individuals who carry out suicide attacks, and helps us understand the people, arguments, and emotions that give rise to this form of terrorism. Highly recommended. General readers, upper-division undergraduates through practitioners."—Choice
(Choice 2008-11-18)

"This book, written by former Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Anat Berko, is an exploration of the world of suicide bombing. With unparalleled access to some of Israel's most heavily guarded prisons, Berko conducts interviews with suicide bombers who were stopped before they could carry out their attacks, and also with their handlers."—Middle East Journal
(Middle East Journal 2008-11-18)

"For those dealing with terrorism this book is a must-read. "—International Institute of Security & Safety Management Newsletter
(International Institute of Security & Safety Management Newsletter 2008-11-18)

"This book is probably one of the best I have seen on the subject since the terrorists she interviewed either were arrested prior to getting to their targets or changed their mind prior to blowing up their targets or were the dispatchers who sent other suicide bombers."—Specialized Consulting Services
(Specialized Consulting Services 2008-11-18)

"Berko entered Israeli prisons and interviewed failed Palestinian suicide bombers and arrested bomb dispatchers. Here, she reports on those interviews, including one with the late Hamas leader Sheik Yassin, in order to explore the motivations of these figures, as well as how suicide bombing attacks against Israel are organized. In much of the work, she stresses the religious aspects of the phenomena and downplays the political and military realities of the Israeli occupation."—Reference & Research Book News
(Reference & Research Book News 2008-11-18)


"The Path to Paradise is an astounding document, an original and authoritative account of the inner worlds of suicide bombers and their dispatchers. Dr. Anat Berko brings to her work a unique combination of academic expertise, and, as the daughter of Jewish refugees from Iraq, genuine cultural understanding of the world of her subjects. The depth of both her professional and personal knowledge of her subject make this book a must-read for anyone interested in the real and complex causes of the suicidal terror that is spreading like wildfire throughout the world, and of which we in the US felt the devastating effects on September 11th, 2001." (George P. Fletcher, Columbia University, Author of Romantics at War: Glory and Guilt in the Age of Terrorism) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597973645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597973649
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,568,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At the height of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the United States were absolutely bitter and vicious opponents, their agents and operatives worked against each other in every possible way- but they did not go about killing themselves. The natural assumption of people in the U.S. the former Soviet Union, and my guess is almost everywhere, is that people want to live.
But today we live in a world where something unheard of , even two decades ago, is happening. Every day whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, people are blowing themselves up in order to murder others, who most people in the world would consider, civilians, innocent outsiders.
Now Anat Berko an Israeli researcher has made a pioneering study of the phenomenom. She has based her research on interviews with a large number of jailed would- be suicide bombers, with their handlers or dispatchers. She provides a great deal of new insight into the problem even I suspect for those who have been following the problem for some time now.
Berko makes a firm distinction between the 'dispatchers' and the 'suicide- bombers'. The former are the strong ones, the ideologues, the ones who often convince the suicide- bombers to operate. The suicide- bombers often are weak personalities, with family- problems which they hope to solve by the suicide- bombing. Often they are young people whose sexual identity has not formed, and who are moved by the prospect of seventy- black-eyes clear- skinned virgins as their reward in Paradise. They too may come from families with a certain stigma, and often their action may be a way of restoring the honor of the family in the general society.
Berko also connects the dramatic rise in suicide- bombing with the Islamic war on Western culture.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Garrison Jr. VINE VOICE on December 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers" by Israeli Lt. Col. Anat Berko , 2009. Over several years, this female author (who has a Ph.D. in criminology) was permitted to interview dozens of Palestinians who had been trained to engage in a suicide-bombing mission against some Israeli population target, or one who had recruited them. The author asked both male and female Islamikazes as to what motivated them to engage in their potential death act of strapping explosives upon their bodies and then detonating them amongst military, but most likely, civilian targets? The author learned that many of the male bombers believed that they would be wedded in Paradise (Heaven) with the virginal Houris, while the females stated their interest in achieving certain entry into Paradise to meet with Allah. While they spoke of their `reward' that they would receive in Paradise, many of them stated that what prompted their mission was their opposition to `oppressive' Israeli `occupation' of Muslim lands on the West Bank. The author found `lonely hearts' amongst both the males and females, some wanted to `get back' at either their father or mother for some social `slight' - such as their opposing a possible engagement with someone who did not meet their parent's higher expectations for a suitor. Captured suicide bombers received long prison sentences. Those who were pregnant at the time of their mission had their child separated from them once the child became three years old. The author noted that young agents became more `radicalized' against Israel after their incarceration. This book is wonderful for allowing one to hear from Islamikazes as to what motivates their attacks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. B. Scott on September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Path to Paradise is a priceless treasure of information which is seldom seen in other sources. Let me begin by applauding Ms. Berko on her willingness to document the words of prisoners when so few others have. Her resolve to enter into these conversations with calm and compassion, despite her personal history as someone who personally knew the victims and who lives every day as a potential victim herself, is a testament to her bravery and determination.

My only criticism of this book is that the scientist in her could not pull her far enough away to provide a holistic, dispassionate, even analytical view of the subject. She seems to view the prisoners much like a zoologist, as dangerous creatures of another species to be studied but not identified with. She often describes her own, unverified, reading of the situation. "A man with... piercing black eyes, full of suspicion", "I had the feeling he was...", and many references to her belief that the prisoners were contemplating her harm as they spoke. Interestingly, the words of the prisoners transcribed in those situations were usually introspective, calm, and even thoughtful, not violent.

Perhaps the hardest thing to overlook is her attitude that these prisoners are simple, straightforward criminals. She glosses over the fact that most, if not all, of the prisoners describe themselves as being part of a military or joining "military training", separating themselves from the civilian population. In their mind they are an army fighting a war, much like herself, but she sees them as only immoral criminals.
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