Jewish Journal


July 18, 2002

LAX Trail Cold

FBI offers no new information about the July 4 murders.


As the families of Victoria Hen and Yaakov Aminov continued their mourning during the 30-day sheloshim period, the FBI continued its tight-lipped investigation into their July 4 murder at the Los Angeles International Airport.

"There have been no new developments and we will not issue a statement until the conclusion of our investigation," FBI spokeswoman Cheryl Mimura said.

Neither El Al Airlines, at whose airport counter Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot and killed the two victims, nor the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, had any comment, pending the FBI's report.

Aminov's wife, Anat, and their five children, together with a son from his previous marriage, flew to Israel to bury their husband and father, and will not return until the end of Sheloshim on Aug. 4, said Rabbi David Adatto of Congregation Yad Avraham in North Hollywood.

The Hen family sat shiva for their daughter and sister at their home in Chatsworth, and are planning a communitywide sheloshim ceremony on Aug. 4 at Hen's graveside at Eden Memorial Park.

Family spokesman Joseph Knoller received one unexpected call when Omar Ricci, chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), asked whether he could meet with the Hen family to offer his condolences and express his shock and condemnation of a fellow Muslim's murderous act. Knoller said that the family declined the visit as "premature" and inappropriate until Ricci rendered a public condemnation on television.

Ricci, whose parents are Italian and Pakistani, told The Journal: "I felt the need, as a husband and father, to visit the Hen family, regardless of the strife in the Middle East."

Asked whether the Muslim community had been made aware of his condemnation, Ricci said that it had been posted on an extensive e-mail network, the primary means of communication among Los Angeles Muslims.

A higher level communication took place between Israeli and Muslim leaders in Los Angeles. MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hatout wrote to Israel's Consul General Yuval Rotem expressing his condolences to the families of the victims and reiterating the condemnation he made of the attack. Rotem was quoted in last week's Journal saying that as far as he knew, the Muslim community had kept silent following the attack. "Such a statement is not only wrong," Hatout wrote, "but also inflammatory."

Rotem acknowledged Hatout's condemnation in a return letter. "By immediately and unconditionally condemning acts of hatred and terror we are able to demonstrate ... our commitment to peaceful coexistence," he wrote.

The men cc'd their letters to Gov. Gray Davis, who thanked them in handwritten notes for their outreach efforts.

Meanwhile, the question of whether the killing represented an act of terrorism or an "isolated incident" remained unresolved. Israeli spokesmen, both in Los Angeles and Jerusalem, called on their long expertise to unhesitatingly define the act as a clear case of terrorism, while the FBI continued to look for motives and outside connections.

Local Jewish leaders this week took issue with The Los Angeles Times' Sunday front page profile of Hadayet. The Times deployed three reporters and 10 contributing writers from Cairo to Orange County.

The general tone was indicated by the headline in The Times, "Those Who Knew LAX Killer Say Personal Agenda Died With Him," and a kicker above the headline, quoting Hadayet's wife, "There is nothing to suggest he was a bad person."

The article traced Hadayet's career from his life as a well-to-do banker in Cairo to a difficult time as an independent limousine operator in Irvine. After dozens of interviews, The Times reported that "the emerging consensus is that Hadayet was an ordinarily religious man with little appetite for politics, who opened fire on the El Al ticket counter, following a personal agenda that died with him."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, immediately fired off a letter to Times editor John Carroll, in which he took issue with the article's tone and content and described it as a "whitewash."

"There is zero perspective from the victims, from police or Jewish sources," Cooper wrote. "When touching on [Hadayet's] motivation, the article reads that he 'occasionally mention a hatred for Jews ... [but only from] a cultural perspective....' What does 'occasional' hate mean -- are there cultural hate crimes or cultural terrorist acts? Did the Times bother to report that the widow of the shooter told wire services, she did not believe he even committed the murder? Has the Times assigned any of its crack reporting team to see if this guy has links to terrorist movements? ... Get a grip!"

Cooper's anger at the Times was palpable in a phone interview. "If it were up to me," he said, "I would advise the Jewish community to pick up its marbles and go elsewhere. Unfortunately, there is no elsewhere to go to."

Throughout the last week, a large number of donations, mostly in small amounts, continued to flow to the memorial funds established by the victims' families.

The need is direst for the large Aminov family, bereft of its breadwinner, Adatto said.

Program Remembers Israel's Victims of Terror

The Jewish community will commemorate the lives and deaths of more than 500 victims of terror in Israel on Sunday July 21 at 11 a.m. at Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles.

Included among the victims are the 13 killed in Israel this week and two Angelenos shot on July 4 at LAX.

The program will include an address by Israeli Deputy Consul General Zvi Vapni, remarks by Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President John Fishel and an invocation by Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive director of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

In addition, families of some of the victims will speak and there will be a poetry reading.

A large board will display photos of the victims, and each person will be handed a card with the name of one victim and a pebble, to be placed on a table next to the photo display.

The commemoration is part of a national observance held in 20 American cities and is coordinated by the American Zionist Movement, according to Bernard Weisberg, chairman of the Los Angeles event.

Eight organizations are co-sponsoring the commemoration.

For security reasons, those planning to attend are required to phone (323) 655-2842 in advance and leave their names. Those who fail to do so, are requested to arrive early to clear security.

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