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Gadi and Tzippora Shemesh February 9, 2004

The tragic death of Gadi and Tzippora Shemesh of Pisgat Ze’ev, who were victims of a homicide-bombing attack on March 21, 2002 on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem, is particularly heart-rending. Gadi graduated Boys Town Jerusalem in 1986. As do most Boys Town graduates, he entered the Israeli army immediately following graduation, and at the end of his enlistment, he decided to make the army his career. Gadi had been trained by Boys Town in the skills of printing and graphic arts, and he made good use of that education in his army assignment to the photography section of its printing department.

Gadi, 34, and his wife Tzippora, 29, lived with their two daughters, ages 7 and 3, in Pisgat Zeev, a northern suburb of Jerusalem, near the rest of Gadi’s family, which came to Israel from Afghanistan in 1957. Two of Gadi’s seven siblings are also Boys Town graduates, his older brother Yaacov (Carpentry, Class of 1984), who is now the head of security for a large Jerusalem absorption center, and his younger brother, Manny (Printing, Class of 1993) who is also a career member of the IDF.

Gadi and Tzippora had gone to Jerusalem that fateful day for a special reason. Tzippora was expecting, and they had an appointment at a specialist’s office on King George Street for an ultrasound examination. What they learned at that exam, but which they were never able to tell the other members of their family, was that Tzippora was carrying twins. Sadly, both of the unborn babies died with their mother in that day’s terrorist blast.

Gadi enlisted in the army with two of his friends from Boys Town, and they were assigned to the same base together. During their first years there, they established the first synagogue at the base for themselves and their fellow soldiers. Gadi’s mother said that the synagogue is one of the reasons why Gadi decided to re-enlist. During his sixteen years in the army, he was always working to assure its proper upkeep and operation. In the wake of his death, the IDF has decided to name that synagogue in Gadi’s memory. Furthermore, Boys Town is joining in a campaign with the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York in a children to children project to provide a Sefer Torah for the synagogue’s use. (According to its chaplaincy office, the Israeli army is suffering from a general shortage of Torahs for use by soldiers.)

In an interview with Israeli television in the days after the terrorist attack, Gadi’s older brother, Yaacov, reminisced about his brother and spoke with great courage about the family’s determination to raise the two little girls who were suddenly made into orphans by the bombing.

Yaacov Shemesh was wearing his fallen brother’s army dogtags and the torn shirt traditional for Jews in mourning. He said that although they are deeply grief-stricken, the family members have, through their faith, accepted the deaths of Gadi and Tzippora as acts of heroism on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and are determined to carry on their tasks. Yaacov thanked the army for making a special allowance to permit Gadi and Tzippora to be buried together in the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, so in death as in life, they can continue to remain inseparable, and a perfect couple.

The Shemesh family and Tzippora’s parents, the Ben Chamu family, are now working together to care for the two orphaned girls. They will be raised by one of Gadi’s sisters and her husband, who have no children of their own. Yaacov says that the girls have been told that their parents have gone to heaven, but the 3-year-old still often picks up the telephone, pretending to call her father, and asking “Where are you? Why don’t you come home?”

A gathering in memory of Gadi and Tzippora was held at Boys Town on April 18, at the end of the traditional 30-day mourning period, which was attended by more than 400 people.

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