BEHIND THE HEADLINES Victims of suicide bombings: More than just names on a list

JERUSALEM, Aug. 4 (JTA) — The victims of last week’s twin suicide bombing at the Mahane Yehuda market were more than names on a list. A survivor of Auschwitz, two new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and an Israeli Arab were among the 13 victims to lose their lives when two men blasted themselves and their surroundings. More than 170 others were wounded in the attack, for which the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas has claimed responsibility. A glimpse at some of their backgrounds — and at the family members they left behind — scarcely captures the full tragedy of lives cut short. One of the victims, 92-year-old Simha Fremd, was a survivor of Auschwitz who had settled in South America before immigrating to Israel 18 years ago. Fremd, who often traveled to Mahane Yehuda in his motorized cart, is said to have loved the colorful, Middle Eastern atmosphere of the produce market. The day after the blast, Fremd’s cart — its tires deflated — still stood at the blast site, surrounded by hundreds of candles placed by grieving Israelis in memory of all the victims. Difficulties in identifying one of the victims created three days of agony for the relatives of Mark Rabinovitz, 80, of Jerusalem. New immigrants from the former Soviet Union, members of the Rabinovitz family rushed to area hospitals after the elder Rabinovitz did not come home after the July 30 attack. He was not listed among the killed or injured, but the family was told that one body had yet to be identified. It took three long days before they knew for sure. During Rabinovitz’s funeral Sunday, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert noted how the family patriarch had made aliyah with the hope of living safely in Israel as a Jew, but that, ironically, he lost his life in Israel because he was Jewish. Within moments of hearing about the bombing, the relatives of David Nasko turned on the television, anxious to hear something about the 44-year-old fruit vendor. One of his sisters, Ziona, saw what she believed to be his mangled body in the wreckage. Her fears were confirmed a few hours later. Raised in a poor family, Nasko worked hard and was eventually able to purchase a home for his wife, Tikva, and their two children, ages 1 and 3, in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion. Their son, Nissim, had reached his first birthday the day before the attack. Also from Mevasseret Zion was Shmuel Malka, 44, who had worked as a taxi driver until several weeks ago, when he decided to help out in his brother-in-law’s fruit-and-vegetable store. Like the Naskos, the Malkas began to expect the worst when they identified the family’s destroyed shop on television. Malka’s brother-in-law, Moshe Tiran, remains hospitalized. Malka is survived by his wife, Ariela, and their 3-year-old son. Residents of the village of Abu Ghosh, situated between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, were also in mourning this week after burying one of their native sons. The only Israeli Arab killed in the attack, Muhi Adin Othman, 33, had worked at the Mahane Yehuda market for 10 years. More than 1,000 people, most of them related to Othman, attended his funeral the day after the attack. Watching the arrival of so many visitors, Othman’s 7-year-old son mistook the funeral for a happy occasion and reportedly asked, “When is the wedding going to start?” Othman also leaves a wife and 5-year-old daughter. The youngest victim, 15-year-old Grigory Pesahovic of Jerusalem, was finally laid to rest in a non-Jewish section of a Jewish cemetery on Sunday, four days after he was killed. Born in Russia, “Grisha,” as he was known, made aliyah with his divorced non-Jewish mother two years ago. His father, who is Jewish, arrived six months later. He was initially refused burial in a Jewish cemetery because his mother is not Jewish. As a result, his funeral was originally scheduled to take place at the Christian Mount Zion Cemetery in Jerusalem. But his parents halted the funeral, when, against their expressed wishes, the presiding Greek Orthodox priest insisted on reciting Christian prayers. The funeral was called off, and Pesahovic’s body was returned to the hospital. The problem was not resolved until Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein personally intervened on the family’s behalf. Edelstein contacted Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who said that although Pesahovic could not be buried alongside other Jews for religious reasons, he could be buried in a special section of the Jewish Har Hamenuchot Cemetery set aside for people whose Jewish identity is “questionable.” Although the government passed legislation enabling the establishment of both non-Orthodox and civil cemeteries — in the wake of earlier cases where “half-Jewish” immigrants were barred from Jewish cemeteries — none has been established. Uri Regev, a Reform rabbi who heads the movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, said that if the government had done its job, the controversy over Pesahovic’s burial would have been avoided. Regev said that “the authorities are acting in bad faith” by “denying the funding and land allocations that would make such cemeteries possible.”

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