Vigil honors Israelis lost to terrorism


It wasn't accidental that yesterday portions of the lawn of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville resembled a cemetery.

After all, more than 850 people -- all Israeli victims of terrorism since September 2000 -- were being memorialized there.

The public display of names and faces is part of a weeklong "Vigil for Israel Victims of Terrorism" sponsored by the Baltimore Zionist District. By Friday, organizers plan to have read aloud biographies on each of the more than 120 victims killed in the past year, said Tami Adelman, executive director of Baltimore Zionist District.

"You can't do it without letting your emotions get in the way," Adelman said. "You walk up [to the podium] and start reading someone's bio like you would a politician's, and then the words hit you."

By 2 p.m. yesterday, nearly 200 people had come out to walk among the rows of handmade memorials or listen to readings. For some, it was a way to pay respects. For others, it was much more.

Mark Zusman, 33, of Montgomery County talked about a bomb that exploded July 31 last year in a cafeteria at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The blast killed nine people and severely injured his sister, Inna Zusman.

The explosion's force knocked Inna Zusman into furniture, breaking several vertebrae at the waist level and paralyzing her, Mark Zusman said. His sister also suffered third-degree burns to her upper body and had more than 70 pieces of shrapnel in her, he said.

That she survived was a "miracle," Zusman said in an interview. "She was unconscious for 35 days and spent 54 days in ICU."

Zusman, a software engineer, said he thinks it is a good idea to display the names and faces of terrorism victims.

Like Dmitri Pundikov, 33, who was one of five people killed July 17 last year in a double suicide bombing near the old central bus station in Tel Aviv.

Or Yossi Tabaja, 27, a border police superintendent who was fatally shot by his Palestinian counterpart on a joint patrol near Kalkilya.

Or Gal Eisenman, 5, who was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem, killing the girl and her grandmother. Or Ya'acov "Kobi" Mandell, 14, formerly of Maryland, who was stoned to death while hiking with his friend in a cave not far from his home.

Melissa and Matt Sacks, 10 and 6 respectively, helped out yesterday by putting the makeshift tombstones in the ground. Their father, Brian Sacks, is president of the Baltimore Zionist District.

"It's sad because they got killed," Matt said after putting some memorials in the ground.

"I think it's sad because these people were ... just trying to go places to have fun, and they shouldn't ... get killed for no reason," added his sister. In a brief speech at the event yesterday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he supports Israel's right to live in peace, drawing applause.

"All American presidents in recent years have tried to broker peace. I hope President Bush ... is successful in this latest at- tempt. The roadmap to peace has many, many obstacles as you all know," Ehrlich said.

Brian Sacks said he felt it was important to take his children to the event. This is the third year the vigil has taken place.

"Every year we pray this will be the last year," Sacks said.

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