A ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the terror attack at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv was held yesterday on the city's seafront promenade. The Dolphinarium suicide bombing in June 2001 killed 21 people, mostly youths, and injured around 120.
The ceremony, held near where the suicide bomber blew himself up amidst a crowd of young people waiting to go into a party, was attended by families of the victims, individuals injured in the attack, politicians and Tel Aviv residents who were "sitting on the roof just as the blast occured."
The monument erected at the site was draped yesterday in numerous wreaths, while pictures of some of those killed in the attack were laid on the chairs set up for the ceremony. The circumstances of the attack - the large number of dead and wounded, the young ages of the victims, and the fact that most of the victims were immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were already going through absorption difficulties - turned the Dolphinarium bombing into one of the most painful symbols of the wave of terror.
"We remember the sights and the horror... Israeli society in its entirety is a partner to the same fate and struggle," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni at the ceremony, adding frankly: "The government is unable to ease your terrible suffering."
Speaking on behalf of the families of the victims, Anya Kazachkov, whose daughter, Anya, 16, was killed in the blast, said: "The pain is great and harsh. Even today, I still don't believe that Anya is gone. This week, I attended an end-of-year party at the Shevach Mofet School [where many of the victims studied, Y.Y.] and I didn't get to see Anya graduate with all the other students."
Last week, Alona Sportov, 16, who was very seriously injured in the terror attack, underwent her 22nd operation, which lasted eight hours and during the course of which an artificial bone was implanted in her head to replace the smashed left portion of her skull. According to her mother, Irena, the latest surgery was not "just another routine operation," but the last in a long series of vital treatments.
"From now on, the surgery that Alona will undergo will be plastic surgery," Irena says. "Alona is recovering, and she can already say 50 words; but she is still unable to read or write."
Irena hasn't worked since the terror attack, and she has no gripes about the support she has received. "Lots of people - private individuals, and also from the municipality and the government - have been very helpful to us, and I want to thank them," she says.
But it appears that despite the all-out effort to help the victims - for example, the private fund set up by businessman Mikhail Chernoy - the assistance has not filtered through to everyone; and according to welfare officials involved with the families of the dead and injured, many of the injured and their families whose lives have changed since the attack are still running into problems.
"There is definitely a distinction made between the families of those killed and the families of those injured," says a Tel Aviv Municipality social worker. "In general, families of the dead are `embraced;' in other words, when I pick up the telephone and ask for something for the family of a deceased, it usually works out. In the case of the injured, I regret to say that matters are arranged less quickly."
Sources at Sela - The Israel Crisis Management Center for Immigrants, which dealt with the injured and continues to provide them with assistance today, say that "each family has its own difficulties and course of action, but there are also common elements. For example, one can note that some of the injured did not receive the suitable disabled rating, and there are many struggles going on about this. In the end, many of them fall between the cracks."