Bombing site transformed by mitzvah

JERUSALEM — Elhanan and Rivka Berkovitz have decided to spend this Passover at Netanya's Park Hotel, the site of last year's Seder night suicide bombing in which 29 people were killed.

"We're returning in order to make a statement that terrorism won't work," said Berkovitz, who had seder last year at the Mitzpeh Yam Hotel, just five minutes away from the Park Hotel. "I think it's something that you have to do… to show your enemies that you're not afraid."

"When the attack happened last year, we said we won't allow terrorism to reap any benefit from its carnage. We were the first wedding at the Park Hotel since the bombing and now we are going back to Netanya for Passover."

Berkovitz, 71, a psychotherapist from Manchester, England, and his wife Rivka, 58, a writer and musician from the Netherlands who teaches music at a Jerusalem conservatory, were engaged to be married last Passover when they came to Israel to celebrate the holiday. They had met on the Internet site,

The couple was sitting at the seder table last March 27 when, Berkovitz said, "my wife heard a loud noise and then we all heard many sirens. A manager interrupted the chazzan who was leading the seder and announced that there had been an attack at the Park Hotel but that no one had been hurt; the seder continued.

"Shortly thereafter, someone at my table with a mobile phone was told that what the manager told us had not been true. After the seder, by which time the actual news had filtered through the dining room, the management made a factually correct announcement but told us not to worry, as lots of people were carrying guns and acting as security."

He added that later that evening a young woman staggered down the street toward Berkovitz, holding a bloodstained Haggadah and menu from her table and was completely shell-shocked. "I listened to her and she just needed that because I know how to listen, that's my skill. And she said, 'This should never happen to people,'" he said.

The couple's decision to get married at the Park Hotel was made the following day when they had their first view of the devastation that was wrought there. "We went to find the manager of the Park Hotel to book the wedding, and we found out that the father of six had been killed," he recalled.