'We Have Given Them Death'


They buried Anya Kachekova on Sunday, along with Irina Usdachi, Simona Rodin, Ilya Gutman, Marina Barakovsky, Roman Dezanashvili, Irina Nefomiyashchi, Yael Skalianik and the two sisters, Yelena and Yulia Nelimov. In a mind-numbing string of funerals that lasted all day, 10 of the 20 people killed by a suicide bomber outside a Tel Aviv nightclub Friday were laid to rest in the Yarkon Cemetery here.

There were other funerals of victims Sunday--in the coastal town of Netanya, in Kiryat Shaul and the Givat Brenner kibbutz--for a total of 14. But nowhere was the scale of the latest outrage to flow from the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict more deeply felt than at this cemetery.

All 10 who were buried here were young immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as were most of those who died Friday night. The deaths of so many immigrants in a single terrorist attack have rocked this nation's large and powerful Russian community to its core.

Agonized parents have wondered publicly about the wisdom of their decision to rear their children in the Jewish state.

"We came here to give the children a better life," one mother told an Israel Television reporter as she sat in a Tel Aviv hospital hallway Saturday, waiting for news about her injured child. "Instead, we have given them death."

Few found comfort in the words of Eli Ben Menachem, a deputy Cabinet minister. He told mourners at Ilya Gutman's funeral that the deaths "proved in the cruelest way that the immigrants are an integral and significant part of Israeli society--not only in high tech and academia, but also as a target for terrorists."

The pain of some mourners was intensified by the initial refusal of the nation's religious burial society to allow three of the victims, whose mothers are not Jewish, to be buried in the Yarkon Cemetery. It took the intervention of the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, to ensure their inclusion.

Teenage schoolmates of the mostly young victims spent the day repeating the same heartbreaking ritual. As each ambulance from the morgue delivered a corpse draped in an Israeli flag, family and friends gathered to receive it under a stone portico. The crowd of hundreds wept as Cabinet ministers and other dignitaries eulogized the victims. Then they trudged the short distance to the cemetery's edge, where the freshly dug graves in a neat row were methodically filled.

'We All Share One Destiny, One Fate'

"Life in this country carries a heavy price, sometimes too heavy to bear," Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the mourners at the Nelimov sisters' funeral. "Immigrants or sabras [native-born Israelis], we all share one destiny, one fate. We live in this country, and we have no other."

Yelena, 18, and Yulia, 16, had pushed their parents to move the family to Israel, Education Minister Limor Livnat told the sobbing crowd that attended their double funeral. Ultimately, the girls' desire to live in the Jewish state split the family, with their mother, grandmother and younger brother coming here with them five years ago and their father staying behind.

The sisters, who friends said were inseparable, were waiting to get into a beachfront nightclub when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives close to them. Both girls were killed instantly.

At the graves, most of the families stopped struggling to find words in the Hebrew that for many is still a foreign tongue and instead said their goodbyes in Russian. Mothers wailed and caressed the shrouds that covered the bodies of their children. As soon as each body was interred, flowers and wreaths were piled high atop the grave. And then the crowd trudged back to the portico to start all over again.

Many Talk About Leaving the Country

"I've been here all day," said Yuval Haripliyevski, 18. "Since Friday night, I have stayed at the hospital with my girlfriend, who was injured. But almost all the girls who were wounded or killed were her friends. So I left the hospital to be here today."

Many of his friends, Haripliyevski said, are talking about leaving this country to which their parents dreamed of escaping.

The Tel Aviv high school where four of those who were buried were students brought mourners by the busload. Shevah Mofett High School's student body began its day talking to grief counselors and social workers. Students and teachers then signed up for the funerals they planned to attend. Many signed up for them all.

In an article in one of Israel's Russian-language newspapers, Max Luria, himself an immigrant, wrote of how different the mood among the immigrants is today compared with the optimism they felt when they began coming here in large numbers a decade ago.

"Then, 10 years ago, it seemed that only in our country could Jews achieve peace and quiet and our children have a happy future," Luria wrote. "Today the nice legend of a strong and safe Israel receives less and less credibility on the part of the Russians. According to statistics, even in war-torn Chechnya fewer Jews are wounded than in the Land of Israel. As a result, the Jews of Russia now prefer to go anywhere else--just not to Israel."

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