Jews will recall 96 as year we lost Purim

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

JERUSALEM — Tears streaked the festive makeup on the face of Ortal Hershkovitz, 16, as she ran from the Dizengoff Center mall in the heart of Tel Aviv after Monday's bloody bomb attack.

The Ramat Aviv teenager had been wandering the mall dressed as a Hawaiian hula dancer for Purim with her friends when the fourth suicide bomber in nine days struck.

"All of a sudden, there was a huge explosion and glass started falling toward us," she said, sobbing. "We all just started to cry and run away. We didn't want to look at the bodies."

Many young Israelis will remember 1996 as the year without Purim.

In deference to the victims of this week's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, schools and synagogues canceled their annual Purim spiels and parties.

Usually brimming with little Queen Esthers, Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles, downtown Jerusalem this year was nearly devoid of youngsters.

Fearing more terrorist attacks, most parents decided to keep their kids at home. Those children who did venture out appeared sad and bewildered at the lack of festivities.

For the adults, the horrible cycle of suffering has been even more traumatic. For the second week in a row, Israelis have rushed to newsstands to check whether someone they know has been killed or injured.

Even people with no actual ties to the victims were deeply affected by the front-page photos of soldiers, schoolchildren and grandparents who were killed in the blasts.

Among the victims of this week's attacks:

*On their first outing without parental supervision, Kobi Zaharon and Yovav Levi, both 13, had the time of their lives roaming the Dizengoff Center shopping mall in Tel Aviv.

They never made it home.

After walking around the mall on Purim, the two boys were about to board a bus when the blast occurred. Kobi, who was preparing to celebrate his bar mitzvah next month, was killed immediately. Yovav died soon after in the hospital.

*Last week, Gavriel Shamashvili heard the terrible news that a close relative, Simon Tarkashvilli, had been killed in the first No. 18 bus bombing in Jerusalem. Exactly one week later, Shamashvili himself was killed when another No. 18 bus was blown up in the heart of Jerusalem.

A Soviet immigrant who arrived in Israel four years ago, Shamashvili had worked in a factory that produced medical supplies.

Just a week earlier, his fellow employees had given him a bouquet of flowers for his 43rd birthday. "His Hebrew wasn't good enough to read the card, so I translated," said a co-worker. "He seemed really touched."

A grieving relative noted that "the family has just gotten up from one shiva [seven-day mourning period], and now we are once again in mourning." He leaves a wife and two children, ages 14 and 16.

*Anna Shingeloff, another immigrant from the former Soviet Union, could not believe her luck last week when she barely missed boarding the first ill-fated No. 18 bus.

"After the first attack, she spent the whole week in shock," said a close friend.

The mother of two young daughters, ages 2 and 9 months, Shingeloff, 36, was again on her way to work on a No. 18 when it exploded in the heart of Jerusalem.

"She is like a flower who was cut down," said a friend. "Now, who will raise her children?"

*When Shoshana Wax asked her two children, Assaf, 21, and Mital, 27, to join her on Dizengoff Street, she had no way of foreseeing the tragedy that would soon befall her family.

After a day spent shopping, Shoshana departed for home. Just five minutes later the bomb went off. For the next several hours, she and her husband, Dov, ran from one place to another, frantically searching for their children. It was only hours later that they located Mital, her foot amputated, hospitalized in very critical condition.

About midnight, they learned that Assaf's body had been identified at the morgue.

*Gidi Taspanish, a 23-year-old from Ethiopia who was living in Israel on a tourist visa, was in a rush Sunday morning. Hurrying to her job as a nanny in the Givat Ze'ev neighborhood of Jerusalem, she boarded the No. 18 bus and was killed instantly.

"When she didn't arrive at work we decided to try to find her, and we did — in the forensics institute at Abu Kabir," said Ronen Vinogard, her employer.

"I don't know how to tell my children what happened to Gidi. They loved her so much."

*As tight as four teen girls could be, ninth-graders Bat-Chen Shahak, Dana Gutman, Hadas Dror and Nili Zeltzer traveled Monday to Tel Aviv for a day of sun and shopping. Due home in the late afternoon, they telephoned their parents to ask whether they could stay just a little longer.

When the bomb went off on Dizengoff, which reopened two days after the blast, Bat-Chen and Hadas, both 15, and Dana, 14, were killed on the spot. Nili, 15, was badly injured and hospitalized. She insisted on attending her friends' funeral in Tel Mond northeast of Tel Aviv.

"I look for you among all the people," she eulogized, according to Reuters. "I am certain you are here somewhere. Don't go. Please stay with me."