Seven Funerals for the Nehmad Family

One after another they buried the dead yesterday at the cemetery in Rishon Letzion. Seven victims of Saturday's Jerusalem terror attack were buried, all from the same family. Hundreds of family members, neighbors and acquaintances crowded between the graves and the trees to mourn.

One after another, the seven were buried at the cemetery in Rishon Letzion's Gordon neighborhood: Shlomi Nehmad, and his wife Gafnit, and their young children, Shiraz and Liran. Also buried was Shlomi's teenage nephew, Shauli Nehmad. And buried with them were two more cousins, two more child victims of the brutal terror attack: Lidor and Oriah Ilan.

The Nehmads, a tightly-knit, traditional-religious family, had strong roots in their Rishon Letzion neighborhood. Hannah Nehmad, who yesterday buried five grandchildren, a son and a daughter-in-law, is a fixture in the neighborhood. Everyone knows her. Yesterday she exclaimed in shock and sorrow: "I want all of them at home, I want all of them beside me."

Last weekend, the Nehmad family traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the bar mitzvah of the son of one of Hannah's daughters, Ziva Hajabi's son, which was held at the Mahane Israel facility. When the Shabbat ended, and guests started to leave Mahane Israel, the Nehmad family gathered on the street outside for the havdalah ceremony (held at the conclusion of the Shabbat). Ezra Nehmad, one of Hannah's sons, asked his 15-year-old son, Shauli, to bring some wine from Mahane Israel, a few dozen meters away. Shauli twice ran to fetch some wine. The explosion went off as he was returning the second time. The blast was especially strong on the narrow street. Shauli died on the spot. His older brother Eli, 16, who was a short distance behind him, was badly injured. He lost an arm, and is currently unconscious at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Kerem.

From where he was standing, near Mahane Israel, Ezra saw this whole scene. His wife Dalia, his two young daughters and a son were delayed getting out of the building and survived the blast without a scratch.

Ronit Ilan, Ezra's sister, decided to change her dress before the journey home, and so went back inside Mahane Israel, taking her six-year-old daughter with her. Her husband Shimon was standing outside, with their 12-year-old boy Lidor; the father was holding their 18-month-old daughter Oriah. Lidor was about to give his father the keys to the family car when the blast went off. The baby girl went flying in the air. Both children were killed.

Shimon Ilan said yesterday that he ran to Lidor, who was lying on the road. "I hugged him and said `don't die, don't die, your father loves you.'"

Shimon Ilan's legs were injured. He had surgery and was released from hospital in a wheelchair so that he could attend his children's funerals. Shimon Ilan was saved, a relative says, because his brother-in-law Shlomi used his body to protect him.

Shlomi Nehmad, 40, Ezra and Ronit's brother, was killed in the terror attack, as was his wife Gafnit, 32, and their two daughters, Shiraz, 6, and Liran, who celebrated her third birthday last Thursday.

Shlomi and Gafnit Nehmad met in Rishon Letzion. Shlomi worked in the town's veterinary department as a sanitary worker and Gafnit was a secretary in the municipality's human resources department. Her desk at work is covered with family photographs, along with friendly messages written to her by her colleagues from work. This Purim, she came dressed as a nurse for the staff party.

Her uncle Rahamim, who heads the human resources department, said yesterday that Gafnit did not want to attend the bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. "They weren't religious," he said. "And Shiraz was frightened by the idea of traveling to Jerusalem, on account of the terror strikes. Gafnit had a premonition, a bad feeling."

A few hours before the funerals yesterday, Ezra Nehmad returned to his home in Rishon Letzion, stunned and disconsolate. A policeman came with him, to take fingerprints for use in identifying the corpses.

David Malkha, Ezra Nehmad's brother-in-law, said yesterday that Shauli Nehmad studied at the Or Gaon yeshiva in Bnei Brak. "He had a great mind. We studied together, and had philosophical conversations. He wanted to be a [religious] prodigy," said Malkha.

Shimon and Ronit Ilan yesterday hosted dozens of condolence callers at his sister's home, in Rishon Letzion. The visitors wept silently, and passed around photographs of Lidor hugging his sister Oriah.

At around 4 P.M., cars started to file out, in a convoy headed for the local cemetery. Traffic police directed the cars to quiet, empty streets.

Eulogies at the funeral conveyed feelings of bitterness and anger, and had a political character.

"A few years ago, at Purim, there was a Jew, one who is called a murderer by some. What did Baruch Goldstein do? He killed people when they were praying. And now little children are killed when they leave a house of prayer," wailed Rishon Letzion's chief rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Ezran. "Where are the bleeding hearts who have called for talks with the murderers. Government of Israel: wake up! We are doing business with cursed monsters. Why have they stopped fearing us? Because our bleeding hearts teach them how to negotiate. Return to [Jewish] faith! Stop loving Ishmael and start to love Israel, so that these victims were not killed for nothing," declared Rabbi Ezran.

Rishon Letzion Mayor Meir Nitzan said: "The terrorist calls himself a person, [but] he is an animal. When we learn how to deal with predatory animals as though they should be hunted down, we'll know how to deal with the nest of vipers which has raised them [the terrorists]."

In his eulogy for the seven victims, Health Minister Nissim Dahan exclaimed: "They cut off the most beautiful flowers before their time was due."