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Recovering from Terror Weekend, Israelis Bury and Honor Their Dead

March 5, 2002
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As Israel mourns its dead from a particularly bloody weekend of Palestinian terror, one family stands out in its misery.

Hundreds of mourners crowded into a Rishon le-Zion cemetery Sunday to bury seven victims of the previous night’s suicide attack in Jerusalem — all members of the same extended family.

“I want them home. I want them with me,” cried the family matriarch, Chana Nehmad.

A mother of eight, Nehmad lost a son, a daughter-in-law and five grandchildren in the attack.

Three other people were killed in the bombing in the fervently Orthodox Beit Israel neighborhood.

The extended family had gathered in Jerusalem over the weekend to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of one of Nehmad’s grandsons. The attack occurred as the Sabbath ended and family members were preparing to go home.

Among those mourned Sunday was Shlomi Nehmad, 40; his wife, Gafnit, 32; and their two daughters, Shiraz, 6, and Liran, 3.

“It is incomprehensible that an entire family disappears in a single second,” a bereaved friend said. “They were a match made in heaven. They loved each other and did everything for the children.”

Shlomi and Gafnit had met at the offices of the Rishon le-Zion municipality, where they worked in different departments.

Last week, the family had celebrated Liran’s third birthday at her nursery school before traveling to Jerusalem. Gafnit was anxious about going to Jerusalem because of the security situation.

“She was afraid to go. She had a bad feeling about it. She even cleared her desk of work before she left,” said David Rahamim, Gafnit’s boss.

Friends and colleagues described Gafnit as warm and friendly. They said her desk was covered with family pictures and notes friends had written her.

Also killed in Saturday’s attack was Shaul Nehmad, 15, the son of one of Shlomi’s brothers.

Family members recalled how Shaul had run back to the guest house to get wine for the Havdalah service that marks the end of Shabbat. On the return trip, he was killed instantly when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Shaul’s brother, Eli, was seriously wounded.

Ronit Ilan, Shlomi’s sister, had gone with her middle daughter, Linoi, to change clothes when the attack occurred.

Ronit’s husband, Shimon, was outside with their two other children, Lidor, 12, and Oriah, 18 months, when the blast occurred.

The two children were killed. Shimon was wounded in the leg.

“My wife grabbed our daughter, and was crying, ‘She’s dead, she’s dead,’ ” Shimon said.

He ran to his son, who was lying on the ground.

“I hugged him, and cried, ‘Don’t die, don’t die. Daddy loves you.’ “

“I just hope that this will be the end of the blood-letting,” one mourner told a reporter. “They should be the last ones to lose their lives in this conflict.”

As a long-time volunteer medic for Magen David Adom, Yohai Porat helped save lives in numerous terror attacks and disasters, including the Feb. 16 suicide bombing in Karnei Shomron that killed three teen-agers and the June 1, 2001, attack outside a Tel Aviv disco that killed 21 Israelis.

On Sunday, while on reserve duty in the West Bank, Porat was killed along with nine other Israeli soldiers and civilians by a Palestinian sniper.

“I saw him, a week before, young, vigorous, in the uniform of a Magen David Adom paramedic, surrounded by young volunteers from six different countries,” a colleague from the Jewish Agency said of last week’s event.

“These young men and women looked to him as their leader, which he was. As he emerged from his meeting with Sen. Clinton, his boyish face was filled with emotion.

“He did all in his power to draw the young men and women closer to Israel and to the Magen David Adom family.”

Porat, a resident of Kfar Saba, is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.

Even before immigrating to Israel, Steven Koenigsburg, 19, dreamed of serving in the Israeli army.

In his native South Africa, Koenigsburg was active in the Beitar youth movement. He moved to Israel with his father two-and-a-half years ago and settled in Hod Hasharon. His father, Kevin, said Steven loved Israel from the moment they arrived.

“Steven and I made aliyah because we are Zionists and Israel is our only country,” he said.

On Sunday, Koenigsburg, a sergeant, was killed in a Palestinian shooting attack near the Kissufim Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“His death was not a waste,” Koenigsburg’s father said. “Because of him and his comrades, we can live in this country, which is the only one we have.”

As a member of the Givati brigade, Koenigsburg was cited as an outstanding soldier and slated to go to an officer’s training course. His friends described him as an exceptional person, to whom many turned for advice.

Koenigsburg is survived by his father, stepmother and stepsister, and by his mother and two siblings.

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