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Behind the Headlines: American Student Killed in Gaza Called `bright, Modest, Delightful’

“I picture her in my mind with smile on her face,” said Rabbi Saul Zucker, speaking of Alisa Flatow, his former student at the Frisch High School in Paramus, N.J.

“She had a warmth about her,” said the associate principal, ” a real inner beauty that surrounded her.”

His description of the 20-year-old Brandies University junior who died Monday from injuries suffered in a terrorist attack in the Gaza Strip was echoed by many knew her.

Chana Henkin, principal of Nishmat, the women’s yeshiva in Jerusalem where Flatow was studying for a semester, called her “an unusually thoughtful person — bright, modest, delightful.”

“Alisa was a young Jewish woman of sterling character who came to Israel to study her Jewish heritage,” said Henkin.

“She was barbarically cut down,” she added, weeping.

Flatow was one of eight people who died in the attack, which took place Sunday near Kfar Darom. She was on a bus going to a resort in Gaza with her American roommate in Jerusalem, Chavie Levine.

Left with shrapnel in her brain, Flatow lapsed into a coma from which she never awoke. Levine, 22, was treated for injuries and released from the hospital.

Doctors pronounced Flatow brain dead Monday. Her father, Stephen, who had flown to Israel to be at her side, spent hours holding her hand, crying and talking quietly to his daughter.

After consulting with rabbis, the Orthodox West Orange, N.J., attorney decided to remove his daughter’s organs and donate them “to the people of Israel.”

“Alisa loved the Jewish people, the Torah and the land of Israel,” Stephen Flatow said in a statement, referring to the eldest of his five children. “She believed in the good inherent in all people. She believed she was safe in Israel and no one could dissuade her from that belief.

“Her lasting contribution to the people of Israel is that her organs were donated for the saving of lives in need.”

Alisa Flatow’s heart was successfully transplanted to a 56-year-old man who had been waiting more than a year for one. Her pancreas and one kidney were transplanted to a 42-year-old woman with kidney failure. She was reported to have been waiting 20 years for the organs.

Flatow’s lungs, liver and other kidney were transplanted to other patients. Her corneas were donated to the eye bank in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

“I think the most important thing is to thank the family that went through this tragedy,” said Dr. Bernardo Vidneh, head of cardiac surgery at Beilinson Hospital outside Tel Aviv, who performed the heart transplant.

“Despite their pain, they had the willingness to do this,” he said.

The family’s approach seemed to fit with the portrait that friends painted of Flatow.

In the letter sent by her high school to prospective colleges, there was only praise for her. “Alisa is alive and there is a sparkle in her eyes always. She becomes passionately involved in what she does. Because of this quality, Alisa is a leader among her friends, often setting the pace and standard of particular activities,” the letter said.

“She volunteered her time at a community day school for Soviet emigre children and helped enrich the program. She taught the children how to play softball as well as how to read and write Hebrew.

“She is energetic, intelligent and highly motivated. Alisa is an ideal student and her greatest strength is her positive attitude toward all challenges and her willingness to do things that are difficult.”

Rabbi Menahem Meier, principal of Frisch, said Flatow “was like the sun that rises in the morning.

“She radiated warmth and light to the people in her environment. She was a wonderful kid,” he said.

At Brandeis, she was majoring in sociology and reportedly wanted to work as physical therapist.

Word of Flatow’s death spread slowly across the Brandeis campus in Waltham, Mass., on Monday. Professor Thomas Doherty said he read about the attack in the Monday morning newspapers, but he had not heard of his former student’s death until he met another professor while walking across the campus. “She was a sweet girl,” said Doherty, in whose “News on Film” class Flatow was enrolled last year. “There’s pall over the campus.”

“She died?” an incredulous Brian Kalmaer asked a reporter talking with students in a cafeteria about lunch time. “She died? No — this is terrible. She was such a nice, sweet girl.”

Kalmaer said a mutual friend had been Flatow’s picture in the newspaper after she was hurt. “She said she never felt as sad as she did at that moment,” he said.

Jehuda Reinharz, inaugurated as president of the school Sunday, said, “The reaction is shock, disbelief.”

“It’s not that people don’t know that such things can happen,” he said, “but it’s a terrible shock when it happens to you.”

Flatow’s funeral was scheduled for Wednesday in her hometown. At least one busload of Brandeis students were planning to attend. A campus memorial service will held after Passover.

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