Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Then on October 16, 2005, while Kinneret Mandell, 23, her cousin Matat Rosenfeld, and Oz Ben Meir, who was 14, were waiting for a ride home at a bus stop, the same terrorists drove by and shot and killed them.
Because Nechemi Sagron survived his injuries, he was able to help the police create a sketch of the murderers, and based on that evidence, they were able to apprehend the three killers, all from Hebron.
The trial took more than a year, with delays and requests for more evidence.
The families were present at the trials. Chavy Levi, mother of 15-year-old Avichai, says, “The trial was its own form of hell, having to face the killers.” The terrorists were sentenced to six life sentences. Chavi says she felt a measure of justice had been served.
That is, until her son’s killers were released. The government didn’t have the courtesy to alert them. Chavi told me that when friends told her they’d seen the killers’ names on the list of prisoners to be released, she was incredulous. She couldn’t leave her bed during the holiday of Sukkot, she was so devastated. Her children are confused, angry and disappointed. The murderers served four years of their six life sentences.
She feels disappointed and betrayed. “There’s hysteria in my family now. The kids are a mess. All the trauma returns and there isn’t support.”
The Koby Mandell Foundation is now setting up a support group for families whose murderers were set free.
Also set free were the murderers of the Dickstein family. Yaakov and Chanah and 10-year-old Shuvael were shot in their car when they were driving to their family on Friday afternoon, leavening eight orphans. Elazar Leibowitz, 21, was murdered in the same incident.
Who else was released? Ahlam Tamimi, who helped plan the suicide bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in the middle of downtown Jerusalem, carried the 20 pound bomb in a guitar case, accompanying the murderer in a taxi, speaking English to blend in as tourist. She was released to a hero’s welcome, as she predicted she would be. Fifteen were killed and 130 injured in that attack. The Heyman family lost their pregnant daughter Shoshana, their only child. Another victim who was then a young mother is still in a vegetative state ten years later.
Other victims: 25-year-old Shalom Har Melech was murdered on August 29, 2003 when he was driving with his wife, Limor. Terrorists opened fire on their car. Limor was injured and gave birth on the same day. The little girl born that day has the same birthday as her father’s yahrzeit.
The woman who seduced 16 year old Ofir Rahumon on the Internet, persuading him to meet her and then driving him to his death – she’s being released too.
Take a look at MFA.gov.il (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website), which documents the list of terror attacks. Read it and weep. You will be appalled, both by the names of so many of the victims whose killers were released and the extent of the loss and trauma Israel has suffered.
The extent of terrorism during the Intifada is unprecedented. It is time for the Israeli government to wake up to the fact that victims of terror also deserve justice.
Perhaps there’s a similarity to the way Israel once treated Holocaust victims who came from Europe after the war. Many Israelis then didn’t want to hear the survivors’ stories. They didn’t want to associate with victims. Israel is a society that values the hero, the soldier – not the victim.
Or perhaps Israelis don’t want to remember the victims of terror because they don’t want to think about the lives that were lost, the ongoing fear and trauma, the feeling of being in danger and on guard at every moment.
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