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Jerusalem High School Has Seen Six Ex-Students Killed : Israel: All were in uniform. Two died in Lebanon, two in accidents, two in Sunday’s bombing. ‘There is some curse on us,’ a former pupil laments.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the frightened students of one Jerusalem high school, Monday’s burials of 18 soldiers who died Sunday in a suicide bombing held a special sort of pain.

Hundreds of teen-agers from Rene Cassin High School flocked to Mt. Herzl military cemetery to pay their last respects to two fellow classmates, young paratroopers who were buried close together as a military honor guard fired a last salute.

The young mourners--some already serving in the army and others preparing to enter at the end of the school year--wept as they clung to each other. Some wondered aloud whether their school is cursed.

“We can’t continue like this,” said Hanit Ohayon, a slightly built 19-year-old serving her mandatory two-year hitch in the army. “We are so young, yet we have to keep going to funerals like this. It isn’t right. We haven’t even started our lives yet.”

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Since July, six former Rene Cassin students have died in uniform. Two died while serving in south Lebanon. Two others died in accidents while on duty. Then two more died at Beit Lid junction while waiting for buses to take them back to their bases Sunday morning. None was older than 21.

So unusual is the concentration of recent service-related deaths--during peacetime--among Rene Cassin graduates that school administrators worry about the psychological well-being of their charges. Psychologists and social workers were on hand Monday morning when Principal Yehezkel Gabai broke the news of the latest deaths to the student body.

“What can you say to them?” asked Hagit Giora, a teacher at the school. “Today there was really nothing we could do or say, except to say that that is how it has always been here, that is part of our existence.”

“We call it the cursed year,” Ohayon said after watching 19-year-old Sgt. Maya Kopstein, with whom she graduated two years ago, and 18-year-old Cpl. Amir Hirschenson buried amid the pines.

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“I don’t know how to explain why this is happening to our school. There is some curse on us. It is unbelievable,” Ohayon said.

Students at the funeral said that some parents are so fearful that a curse exists on the school that they have asked the principal to change the mezuzot that are nailed to the doorpost of every classroom on campus. The mezuza is a piece of parchment with biblical verses written on it, then rolled up and inserted into a small case. The Bible enjoins Jews to affix a mezuza to a doorpost of their homes. It is meant to emphasize the love of God, but some Jews have a superstitious belief that a properly made, properly maintained mezuza can protect those who dwell within from harm.

Sunday night, after Israel Television anchorman Haim Yavin read the names and ages of those killed that morning in the bombing, Rene Cassin students began phoning each other with the stunning news that two more of their own had died.

“When we came to school this morning, the headmaster called us together to talk to us about what had happened,” said Nir Caspi, a 17-year-old senior who is scheduled to enter the army in July. “Everyone just went outside, sat down and cried.”

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On Mt. Herzl, Caspi’s green eyes clouded over as he talked about his own upcoming stint in the service.

“I’ve volunteered for a combat unit,” he said. “Now my parents are telling me that they don’t want me to go. They say the state is not worth it, not worth what we see here today. But I still want to go. It’s a challenge.”


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