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Around the Jewish World Eleven Years Later, Argentine Jews Recall Bombing of Israeli Embassy

March 19, 2003
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Lea Kovensky can’t give up the idea of pursuing justice for those responsible for the 1992 bombing at the Israeli Embassy here a bombing that left her with remnants of glass in her lips and fingers.

Since that March 17, when an explosion ripped through the building, killing 29 people and wounding dozens of others, Kovensky, a secretary at the embassy, has hoped for a day when the perpetrators would be caught.

“I never thought of quitting my work with the embassy, or emigrating, or making aliyah. Since then, I cannot have any other thought than the one that my country will fight to make justice,” Kovensky, 47, said.

For Kovensky and approximately 1,500 other people who gathered this week in front of the hole left after the embassy bombing, the wait continues after 11 years.

At the memorial ceremony Monday, Israel formally accused Iran and Hezbollah of masterminding the bombing.

Standing in front of a small stage, Israeli’s ambassador in Argentina, Benjamin Oron, read a letter from Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

“Israel is certain that Hezbollah” was “the author of the terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires,” Oron read. “Knowing the activities of this terrorist organization, and according to additional information, we know Iran, including high members of its government, was informed about the attack plans and gave its authorization.”

An Argentine judge recently indicted four Iranian officials in connection with the 1994 bombing of AMIA, Buenos Aires’ main Jewish institution. That bombing killed 85 people.

The Supreme Court of Justice is in charge of the 1992 embassy investigation.

In 1999, the court said Middle Eastern terror groups may have been behind the embassy bombing. The court also demanded the capture of Imad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah operative believed to be linked to the bombing.

But the court didn’t blame Iran.

“Honestly, we don’t have many expectations” that the case will be solved, “but we will fight with all of our energy to keep the case open,” Mariano Fridman, director of the Law Department of DAIA, the Jewish political umbrella organization, told JTA.

The looming war in Iraq made Monday’s commemoration more security-minded than ever. Beneath a warm sun, dogs and police officers patrolled the premises.

Many police were hidden on the roofs of neighboring buildings, observing with binoculars. No backpacks were allowed, and people had to check in before they were allowed on the street corner where the ceremony was held.

Norma Goldman, director of Jewish Studies at Tarbut Jewish day School, was at the Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion studying Bible when the bomb went off.

“As an Argentine Jew, I couldn’t be anywhere else today,” Goldman, surrounded by 25 teen-aged students from her school, told JTA.

Victims’ relatives were far from the stage where a few Jewish leaders spoke.

The relatives were seated in stone and iron banks, drinking mineral water that was placed on a nearby table. Their attention seemed to be far from the speeches, their curved backs reflecting fatigue from an 11-year wait without any resolution.

For some, the numbers at the commemoration were too low, showing what they considered a lack of commitment by the Argentine Jewish community

“If not, there should have been more people here,” Hilel Rubinson, 80, told JTA.

But those in attendance — rabbis, students and teachers, community leaders, and victims’ relatives — said they wanted to remember and press for answers in the case.

“I am here because I just want justice,” Maia Avruj, an elementary school student, said.

Avruj was not yet born when the bomb exploded at the embassy.

Jonathan Furrer, standing close to Avruj, was eight years old at the time of the bombing. Furrer was born in 1984, a few months after the return of democracy to Argentina following more than seven years of military government.

Furrer remembers his teachers sending him back home that Tuesday afternoon.

“I sat over a cushion, in front of the television, with my mother,” Furrer said. “I saw all the rubble and I cried. I felt that what had been destroyed was also mine.”

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