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Jewish Journal

Israel Buries Beersheba Bombing Victims

by Dina Kraft

September 2, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Israeli police officers and Zaka rescue and recovery volunteers work to identify bodies in front of two destroyed buses. Photo by Brian Hendler/JTA

Israeli police officers and Zaka rescue and recovery volunteers work to identify bodies in front of two destroyed buses. Photo by Brian Hendler/JTA

Avital Etash stares out from the front pages of Israel's newspapers, a 4-year-old boy in a striped shirt and dark blue kippah, his dark eyes wide and curious.

Etash was the youngest of 16 people killed in Tuesday's double suicide bombing in Beersheba. His mother lies in the hospital, still fighting for her life.

Again Israel turns to mourning the dead, but this time the list of those killed has been slow in coming. As the bombs used in suicide bombings become more sophisticated, producing deadlier and deadlier blasts, it takes more time to identify the remains of the dead.

But with every hourly news broadcast, the list of names grows longer.

Among the first to be buried Wednesday was a 23-year-old named Karin Malka who was on her way to her job with the Jewish Agency for Israel, working with Ethiopian immigrants at Beersheba's absorption center. Her friends remember her as always cheerful, always smiling. In photographs she is seen grinning, her almond-shaped eyes sparkling.

Malka's family recalls her eerie comments that seem now like a premonition: She told them she would likely die in a terrorist attack, and at last night's Shabbat dinner she spoke at length about death and what might await in the next world.

Curious, her family had asked why she thought God so often lets young people die.

Malka, who about a year ago became observant, told them, "He wants to see them in the next world," Yediot Achronot reported.

Malka also was studying engineering at a nearby college.

"She was an amazing young woman ... she gave her all working with the kids here," Tali Ya'akovin, the absorption center manager, told Ma'ariv. "It will be hard to explain to the children that she won't be coming back."

Beersheba's absorption center suffered a second loss with the death of Troint Tekleh, a 33-year-old mother of six who was also killed in the attack. Tekleh and her family had immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia about a year ago. They had been living in the absorption center but planned to move soon to an apartment of their own.

Tekleh's youngest child was a 1-year-old baby boy. Members of the Ethiopian community quickly gathered to help, taking the family's children home to rest while their father went to the hospital to identify her body.

The hero of the day was hailed as Ya'akov Cohen, the driver of bus No. 12, the second bus to explode. He said he stopped his bus as soon as he heard the first explosion.

"I opened the doors, the people asked me to, and I did it immediately," he said. Several people were able to escape before the second suicide bomber, sitting somewhere on Cohen's bus, detonated his explosives belt.

On bus No. 6, the first to explode, a 65-year-old barber named Nissin Vakanin offered his seat to Tamara Batershuli, also 65.

A few minutes later the blast ripped through the bus. When Vakanin looked back, he saw the seat he had given up to the woman, saw that she was dead -- and that the body of the man next to her was in shreds.

"I saw the body of the guy next to her and it was all ripped up. Then I realized he was the suicide bomber," Vakanin said, according to the Washington Post.

"My conscience is not quiet," Vakanin added. "I feel guilty that she died and not me."

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