21 Candles and Large Ceremony Recall 'Russian' Attack

A ceremony called "Eternal Sun" was held yesterday at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium to mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Dolphinarium. The families of those killed were joined by thousands of immigrants who were bused to Tel Aviv from around the country by the Absorption Ministry and municipal authorities. Yet, despite the semi-official nature of the event, the participants were disappointed at the meager turnout of government and Knesset representatives. Even the Russian-speaking MKs, who call themselves the representatives of the community, did not bother to come.

Among the few public figures in attendance were Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, Yisrael Beitenu MK Yisrael Hasson and Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai. The disappointed organizers said they believed the "Russian" MKs had preferred to attend a reception at the Russian Embassy. All the others apparently assumed that it was not "their" event.

The organizers, which included the Absorption Ministry and the Tel Aviv municipality, had taken on a difficult task. They sought to put together a memorial ceremony and an artistic performance that included singing, dance and music by local and foreign performers. Young violinists from South Korea, young singers from Russia, Macedonia and Bulgaria, and local troupes performed in the light of 21 large memorial candles - one for each person killed in the attack. The hearts in the audience members missed a beat as three young children, born to two of the families who had lost children in the attack, were brought on stage to the tune of the song "Life is beautiful."

This was to a large extent an event for the Russian-speaking community in general, and for the Shevah Mofet high school in particular, since many of the dead and wounded had studied there. In the foyer of the auditorium gathered uniformed soldiers and other graduates. They stood silently, occasionally whispering to each other, opposite the large photographs of friends they had lost - the last pictures before their deaths, the first pictures from their lives "there," before they immigrated to Israel.

"There is no doubt that the terrorist attack brought about a profound change," said Izabella Tevlin, a computer teacher at the school. "Until that time, there was an atmosphere of "them" and "us" at the school, a kind of feeling that the immigrants were immigrants and the native-born Israelis were something else."

Tevlin, who is very active in commemorating the victims, is not impressed by the fact that this terrorist attack is imprinted in the public's memory as a "Russian" attack. "That is normal," she says. "There are attacks on soldiers and attacks on Haredim. That is how we are. A nation of groups that go through different versions of the same experiences."

But for the second generation - those who immigrated as babies or were born here to immigrant parents - the attack at the Dolphinarium is not part of the Russian community's experience but rather part of their own history.

Teachers from Shevah Mofet say that the school's newest class does not know the bombing victims.

Over the past three years, attempts have been made to familiarize them with the details of the tragedy by showing them documentary footage of what happened and holding memorial workshops.

Alexander, one of the graduates of the ill-fated class, who has just completed his military service, does not need any of that. He came to the Mann Auditorium yesterday, stood for a long time opposite the photographs of his dead classmates and couldn't say a word.