Thousands mourn victims of suicide bomber who struck at crowded cafe

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The Independent Online

In grief, anger and frustration yesterday, Israel buried the 11 young victims of Saturday night's suicide bombing in the crowded, fashionable Moment coffee shop, 60 yards from the Prime Minister's Jerusalem residence.

In grief, anger and frustration yesterday, Israel buried the 11 young victims of Saturday night's suicide bombing in the crowded, fashionable Moment coffee shop, 60 yards from the Prime Minister's Jerusalem residence.

It was like a conveyor belt of funerals, one on the heels of another, in the bare, rocky cemetery on the Mount of Eternal Rest high above the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. Hundreds attended each interment, passing like formation dancers on their slow, shuffling way to and from the grave sites.

The road to the cemetery was one long traffic jam, with police at every crossroads directing cars in and out. Printed obituary notices jostled for space on a wall by the cemetery gate. On hilltops across the valley, the minarets of an Arab village contrasted with a brash new Jewish suburb.

In the manner of Israeli funerals, there was more ritual than pomp: navy blue vans rather than limousine hearses delivering the bodies; prayer-shawl shrouds rather than coffins; mourners in jeans, shirt sleeves, back-to-front baseball caps, religious skullcaps; some furtively smoking, others whispering into their mobile phones.

At the service for Baruch Lerner, 29, from the West Bank settlement of Eli, a young eulogist demanded retaliation. Another urged the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, not to give in to the Palestinians, not to evacuate a single settlement. But the politicking was muted and incidental.

The mourners were lamenting lives unlived, promises unrealised. The victims' ages ranged from 22 to 31. Men and women, they had gone to meet friends, sip coffee or nibble pasta after the sabbath. Some of the 50 wounded said they had chosen to go to Moment because it was so near the Prime Minister's house (Mr Sharon, as it happened, was not at home). The area, they reasoned, had to be secure.

Fuad Ismail al-Hourani, 22, from the al-Aroub refugee camp near Hebron, thought otherwise. At about 10.30pm he slipped into the queue of people waiting to be seated and blew himself up. One survivor described the blast as "atomic".

Moment, a garden café walled with glass and aluminium, was reduced to a skeleton.

Hundreds of Israelis came yesterday to Rechavia, a leafy, middle-class neighbourhood of university professors and senior civil servants, to see the damage and light memorial candles. One, a grey-bearded, middle-aged man with an American accent, confided: "I felt I had to be here, but I don't have a solution." By the afternoon, a team of government workmen was busy clearing the rubble and starting to rebuild. The owners vowed to reopen as soon as possible.

Across the road, a dozen Peace Now demonstrators mounted a vigil. They are there every day from noon to 8pm, reminding the Prime Minister how many have died, on both sides, since the intifada erupted nearly 18 months ago. One of their placards read: 340 Israelis, 961 Palestinians.

A gang of extreme right-wing disciples of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane lambasted them as "Arab lovers" and "traitors, no better than the Arabs". The peace camp responded in kind, branding them "racists' and "fascists". The police intervened and separated them with an iron fence.

Didi Remez, the Peace Now spokesman, said: "It's an unpleasant situation, waging a political argument in a place which is literally saturated with blood. We had planned something silent, which is what we shall continue to do." Peace Now will be back today. So, as Israel still gropes for a way out of the daily obituary notices, will Rabbi Kahane's disciples.

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