Text size

Thousands of mourners gathered yesterday in Ashkelon's new cemetery for the funeral of Tali Hatuel, the mother killed along with her four daughters in the Kissufim road terror attack. Social worker Hatuel, 34, was seven months pregnant.

David, the father of the family and its sole survivor, was supported by friends as he cried out the traditional mourner's prayer in a broken voice.

Tali's family comes from Ashkelon and her husband's from Ashdod.

The couple settled on the Katif settlement in the Gaza Strip 12 years ago, after living for a period in Ofakim. David Hatuel became acquainted with Gush Katif while studying in a yeshiva in the settlement bloc.

Nine years ago, the Hatuels left Katif to pursue studies for 18 months, but returned to the settlement. They had four daughters and were expecting a son in two months. "We knew it was a son, and we were so happy," David said yesterday at the funeral. "And now everything has been terminated."

Tali Hatuel worked in the social welfare department of the Gaza Coast Regional Council. As a social worker she helped people who had lost relatives in terror attacks. "She would come to my home and comfort me and now its her husband who needs such help," said Haim Ben Aryeh, a neighbor of the Hatuels' from Katif.

"They were a true Israeli family - good, quiet people who loved education and they raised four model children. It's so hard for me to talk about them in the past tense," he said.

Yesterday afternoon, after her three older daughters finished school, Tali picked them up and was driving with them and her 2-year-old in the family's Citroen station wagon. She planned to drive to Ashkelon to pick up her husband, who works as a school principal in the city.

The family intended to work at a Likud precinct to try to persuade party members to vote against Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. "About 500 families left Gush Katif today to campaign against the initiative and nobody imagined an [attack] like this would happen," said one Katif resident.

While waiting for his family to pick him up in Ashkelon, David heard about the terror attack on the radio and tried to phone his wife.

"She didn't answer the calls and so he tried to phone some friends," said Katif resident Ezra Haido. "But they already knew about the incident and recognized his cell phone number, and didn't answer him."

David set out to look for his family at Gush Katif. Tali's father, Shlomo Malka, reached the site at almost the same moment as her husband David. "Shlomo looked for his grandchildren. He kept saying, `where's Hila, where's Hadar," said Ben Aryeh.

In addition to thousands of mourners from Gush Katif and Ashkelon, President Moshe Katsav, Minister Efi Eitam and MK Zvi Hendel attended yesterday's funeral.

Katsav said at the funeral that Arab leaders should be ashamed of such atrocities: "You are a disgrace, talking about Allah while a mother and four children are murdered. Is this what you call a struggle for freedom?" said Katsav.

Some politicians at the funeral brought up the Likud referendum. Minister Eitam, from the National Religious Party, said "the heart of a Jew cannot disengage." Hendel said, "what is left today - who now needs proof of what the enemy wants?"