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Jewish Journal

A 17-Year-Old Mourns

by Tom Tugend

July 26, 2001 | 8:00 pm

One week after a suicide bomber had killed seven of her schoolmates, among 21 dead, 17-year old Olga Bakharakh, president of the student council at the Shevach Moffet magnet school in Tel Aviv, spoke at a shiva (mourning ceremony) to the families of the dead and wounded students.

Last Sunday, facing thousands at the solidarity rally in Los Angeles, the Moscow-born Israeli repeated some of the same words.

"We do not wish for revenge. We wish for life and hope. We wish to grow and evolve, to learn and to have fun, to serve and to work. We wish to live a full life."

Alluding to the longing of young Russian immigrants (who constitute 90 percent of the Tel Aviv school's student body) to be fully accepted as Israelis, Bakharakh spoke of two old sycamore trees that stand at the school's nearby Mount of Hope. "Like these sycamore trees, we, the new immigrants, wish to hold on to hope and give root. We wish to be, like these sycamores, a part of the landscape of this country," she said.

Bakharakh came to Los Angeles with fellow student Samion Katin and the school's vice principal, Karen Ben Ayoun, whose parents came to Israel from Morocco. Ben Ayoun told The Journal that two days after the June 1 bombing in front of the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv, students were scheduled to take their bagrut, one in a series of demanding tests for graduating high school students. Despite the tragedy, the school administration decided to give the exam, as scheduled. "Inside we were crying," said Ben Ayoun, "but we had to show that we would be strong enough to go on."

Shevach Moffet's sister school in Los Angeles is the Milken Community High School. In addition to ongoing student exchange programs, the two schools will launch a series of joint science projects in September.

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