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The Forgotten Victims (Part 1 of 4)

ZOA The Forgotten Victims January 14, 2003


By U.S. Representatives Rob Andrews & Jim Saxton

Nearly 100 Americans have been murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists in Israel since the 1960s, and many more have been injured, some of them permanently maimed. It is especially sobering to note that 31 of those fatalities came subsequent to the singing of the Oslo agreement in 1993, which was supposed to mark the end of the era of Palestinian Arab terrorism.

These horrific statistics are more than just numbers. Each of them was a real person with hopes, dreams and loved ones. They were parents, children, siblings, spouses. Their deaths left behind a long and tear-filled trail of widows, orphans, shattered families and scars that can never fully heal.

The purpose of this booklet is to honor the memory of these terror victims by telling something about the people they were and the lives they led. It transcends the political debates and statistical reports, by looking at the issue in human terms. Because in the end, that is what it all comes down to: the tragic loss of precious human lives.

And there is something that can be done about it.

The Koby Mandell Act (S. 1377/HR. 2098), which we recently introduced in Congress, would provide concrete steps both to capture these Palestinian Arab killers and aid the victims. It would establish a special office within the Justice Department to focus on these forgotten victims – for they are the only American victims of terrorism whose cases have been consistently shunted aside by the State Department.

The names of many of the suspects in these cases are known. Indeed, in this booklet you will find a special section naming these terrorists and displaying their photographs. The State Department refuses to publicize this information. It refuses to pursue Palestinian Arab killers of Americans with the same vigorous and determined methods it uses to pursue other killers of Americans overseas.

The Koby Mandell Act would remove this issue from the jurisdiction of the State Department and place it in the hands of the Justice Department, where a special office would collect evidence where against Palestinian Arab terrorists involved in attacks on Americans and bring them to the United States for prosecution. This office would negotiate with the Palestinian Authority to obtain financial compensation for the victims’ families. And it would maintain a regular liaison with the families of the victims to update them on efforts to capture suspects and obtain compensation – thus ending the current practice of keeping the families in the dark.

Our aim is facilitate the fight against terrorists and bring a measure of genuine relief and consolation to the families of the victims. Every American can do his or her share to help build support for th Koby Mandell Act. Please see the special section at the end of this booklet for practical suggestions as to what you can do to help.

For the sake of justice, and for the sake of fighting terror – please join our effort.

Marla Bennett, 24, of San Diego, California, was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

She was at the university that day to take her final exam in her Hebrew language course. Marla was doing joint graduate work at Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies.

“My friends and family in San Diego are right when they call and ask me to come home – it is dangerous here,” she wrote in the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage in May, “I appreciate their concern. But there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am part of the struggle for Israel’s survival. Paying for my groceries is the same as contributing money to my favorite cause.”

Benjamin Blustein, 25, of Pennsylvania, was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

Benjamin, a musician, was scheduled to return to the United States the next day. His parents, Richard (a pediatrician) and Katherine (a microbiologist at Penn State University) reside in Susquehanna Township, near Harrisburg, PA.

As an undergraduate at Dickinson College, Benjamin had served as president of the campus Hillel. This summer, he was attending a Hebrew language course at Hebrew University.

“He touched many people in many different worlds,” said family friend Mark Powers, noting that Benjamin intended to become a teacher of Jewish studies.

Dina Carter, 38, of North Carolina, was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

After completing her BA at Duke University and her MSW at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Dina took a position as a librarian and archivist at the Hebrew University’s Jewish National Library.

Library colleague Rafi Weiser described her as “a special person… perceptive, intelligent, well-educated, with a winning personality. Her graciousness and exceptional character will be remembered by all who knew her.”

Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, of New York was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

Janis’s family resides in Boston. She earned her B.A. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and then went to the University of Denver for graduate studies. Janis had worked for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston, and then in 1999, she moved to Brooklyn, NY, to work as assistant director of Hebrew University’s program for overseas students. She had arrived in Jerusalem the day before the attack, escorting a group of American college students who had enrolled for their junior year abroad at the university’s Rothberg International School. Janias was eating lunch with them in the cafeteria when the bomb exploded.

“Janis Ruth was a wonderful, loving caring person,” said Harry King, a family friend. “We, her family, are devastated. Her death is such a pointless thing to have happened.”

David Gritz,24, was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria, in Jerusalem on July 31, 2002.

David had arrived in Israel just two weeks earlier. He had just completed his first year toward a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Paris. David, who held dual American-French citizenship, grew up in Paris but spent each summer at the family home in the Berkshire Mountains near Peru, Massachusetts.

Dr. Moshe Gottlieb, 70, was murdered in the Palestinian Arab bombing of a bus in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on June 18, 2002.

It was a Tuesday, the day he provided free chiropractic care to handicapped children. A father of two and grandfather of twelve, Dr. Gottlieb immigrated to Israel from Los Angeles in 1978 with his wife, Sheila.

Speakers at his funeral recalled how Dr. Gottlieb always managed to find time to help others, whether through his professional skills, by teaching classes in the synagogue, or quietly providing financial assistance to the needy.

Gila Sara Kessler, 19, was murdered in a Palestinian Arab suicide bombing at a bus stop in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem on June 19, 2002.

A skilled acrobat who was once regarded as an Olympic hopeful, Gila attended the High School for the Arts in Jerusalem, majoring in dance. She also worked part time for the Jewish Agency Eduction Department, in a project of on-line learning with Jewish communities around the world. Although offered an apartment by the Jewish Agency, she chose to live at home in order to help with her younger siblings. Gila was the daughter of Ezra Kessler, of New York. She s survived by her parents, one brother, and two sisters.

Hannah Rogen, 90, was severely wounded in the Hamas suicide bombing at a hotel Passover seder in Netanya on March 27, 2002. She died of her wounds on April 2, 2002.

Mrs. Rogen was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the United States after the war. In 1972, she settled in Israel with her husband, Pinchas, who died several years ago. She was attending the Passover seder in Netanya with a childhood friend, Yulia Talmi, who was also killed in the attack.

Mrs. Rogen was a generous contributor to the Laniado Hospital in Netanya, where staff members recalled fondly how “she used to warmly hug everyone” when she came to visit.

Ester Klieman, 23, whose family came from Chicago, Illinois, was shot to death by Palestinian Arab terrorists near Ofra on March 24, 2002.

After finishing high school, Esther volunteered for National Service and was assigned to the Neve Sha’anan School for disturbed children, where she worked with Arab and Jewish children. The faculty members described her as a kind, sensitive, and caring young woman who was certain to become an extraordinary teacher.

Moranne Amit, 25, the daughter of a former New Yorker, was stabbed to death by Palestinian Arab terrorists in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor Peace Forest on February 8, 2002.

Moranne was a second year law student at Hafia University and worked part time for Ynet, the web site of the Israeli daily Yediot Ahrnot. She was born and raised in Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi, in the Galilee, of which her grandparents were founders.

Keren Shatsky, 14, of Brooklyn, NY and Maine, and Rachel Thaler, 16, of Baltimore, MD, were murdered in a bombing at a pizzeria in Karnei Shaomron on February 16, 2002. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a member organization of Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lee Akunis, a dual U.S. Israeli citizen, was shot to death near Ramllah on February 15, 2002. Fatah’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lee’s father, Moshe, is from Sweden, and Lee could have remained in Sweden with other family members – but he was devoted to the idea of living in Israel. “I feel as though my entire world has collapsed now that my son has died,” his father said.

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