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Jewish Journal

Israel Counts Largest Death Toll

Families ripped apart, lives destroyed as the country counts its highest amount in a single month.

by Jessica Steinberg

April 4, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Israelis mourn during the funeral of Menchel Daniel in a Haifa cemetery. The 22-year-old Israeli woman was among 16 people killed yesterday in a Palestinian suicide attack on a restaurant in the northern Israeli coastal city. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP

Israelis mourn during the funeral of Menchel Daniel in a Haifa cemetery. The 22-year-old Israeli woman was among 16 people killed yesterday in a Palestinian suicide attack on a restaurant in the northern Israeli coastal city. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP

It was a day of funerals, as Israel buried 14 victims from Sunday's suicide bombing attack in a Haifa restaurant.

Three of Monday's funerals were from one family, the Rons, who were out having lunch at Matza, their favorite restaurant and a popular Haifa hangout.

Carmit Ron lost her husband, Aviel, her son, Ofer, 17, and daughter, Anat, 21, in the tremendous blast.

Anat had recently completed her army duty and had just returned from an extended trip to the United States, where she had worked with special-needs children.

Ofer was a senior in high school, and would have entered the army during the summer.

"I knew they liked to eat at the Matza restaurant," said Eldar Imnov, a friend of Ofer's. "When I heard there had been an attack, I called. They didn't answer their cellular and then I realized that they were there."

A third of the Israeli victims in the 18-month intifada were killed in March: more than125 Israelis, including civilians and security personnel. It is the largest number of Israelis ever killed in one month, not including wars.

Carlos Wegman, 50, another Matza regular, was also a victim of the deadly suicide bombing in Haifa.

A native Argentine who immigrated to Israel in 1973, Wegman had two daughters, Dana, 23, and Maya, 21. Maya said she knew her father was there when she watched the report on television and saw her father's car with a sticker that she had once placed on the vehicle.

Wegman had planned to marry his girlfriend this summer, a "wonderful partner for him," said a friend.

More than one set of dreams was dashed by the bombing that took place on Sunday afternoon, during the Passover holiday.

Danielle Mantzal, 22, had planned to study in Rome, where she lived until the age of 10 with her parents, Nurit and Doron. She was at the restaurant for a quick lunch after studying for her university entrance exams.

"She worked, she studied and she was in love," her mother told Yediot Achronot. "She was planning on studying in Rome, like her father."

Orly Ophir, 15, a rising soccer star, was eating at the restaurant with her mother and two sisters. She was severely wounded during the bombing and died later at the hospital.

When her father, Yossi, first heard about a bombing, he didn't think it could be at Matza because it is owned by Israeli Arabs from the Haifa area.

But as unlikely as it seemed, a Hamas bomber, Shaadi Tubasi, 22, from a Jenin refugee camp, blew himself up in the restaurant owned by a family of Israeli Arabs.

Tubasi was also an Israeli Arab, on his mother's side. He held an Israeli identity card, according to the police, although he lived in a Palestinian refugee camp.

The Adawi brothers, from Turan, a village in the western Galilee, have owned and operated Matza for the last 17 years. All three brothers were injured in the bombing.

They hadn't hired a security guard for the restaurant because they didn't believe the terror could reach them, Abdullah Adawi said in a newspaper interview.

"Maybe a security guard would have lessened the disaster," Adawi said. "That question will bother me for the rest of my life."

From now on, every place of entertainment must have a security guard, according to an order released Sunday by Israel's police force.

Until a month ago, only large businesses had to hire security guards. But the Sunday bombing in Haifa convinced the police to expand the order to include smaller places of business as well.

The entire restaurant was destroyed by the blast, ripping apart the ceiling, windows and floor.

One of the restaurant's waiters, Suhil Adawi, 30, was killed in the attack, and left behind a pregnant wife and 3-year-old son.

"I still can't believe this actually happened," Rabia Adawi, a nephew of the owners, said in an interview with Israel Radio. "This hurts me like it hurts every Jew who has had a relative die in one of these terrible attacks. It has to stop."

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