On June 3, when they were burying Ilya and Roman, I begged to be let out of the hospital at least for a couple of hours: these are my friends being buried! I’d just go to the cemetery, pay my last respects, and be right back. No, they said, we can’t take the responsibility. In that case, I said, go ahead and discharge me! These are my friends, and I have to go.
At the cemetery, I saw Ilya’s parents, came up to Ilya, said farewell, then to Roman, said good-bye to him, too. It was so tough. Everybody wanted them to come back. They were saying things like Come back to us, why are you there alone, we’ll go for a walk in the park . . . that’s what their friends were saying. What a shock. I couldn’t believe they were being buried. When they lowered Ilya’s body, I thought I was going to step in after him. Someone grabbed my hand at the last moment.
We sat at home and cried our eyes out. One big grief. Then people started coming. An apartment full of people. Someone said there would be a bus at 8:30 to take us all to the funeral. I don’t know how we survived that horrible night.
In the morning, as I was getting dressed, I turned on the TV out of habit, and they said in Hebrew, The first funeral is for Anya Kazachkova . . . The moment I found out our funeral was first, I started weeping.
There were a lot of people and a lot of TV. Perhaps because Anya’s funeral was the first one, it was shown all over the world, on all channels. Our friends and relatives saw it, too. In Komsomolsk, they would tell me later they had seen me on the news.
So we went to the cemetery, and an ambulance came by, too.
At the cemetery, they led us to the spot where we would be standing — an elevation where they place a body on the stretcher.
I remember that when I saw out of the corner of my eye that Anya was being carried on the stretcher, I screamed and fell down. My neighbor remembered that after Anya’s body was put in the grave, I went screaming I didn’t want that, that I wanted to take my child back home. Only when the rabbi began reciting the prayer, I calmed down a little bit and stopped crying. I knew it would help Anya’s soul go to God in Heaven. I asked them to let me take her in my arms, but I was told I couldn’t, I could only put my hands on top of her.
I must have been in a shock: I did whatever I was told to do. They asked, “Would you like an ambulance to take you all the way to the gravesite?” I said, “Yes.” Later I wished I had followed Anya on foot to her grave.
I remember there were a lot of people at Simona’s wedding. And I don’t remember anything else.
Faina Nalimova, grandmother:
I didn’t see anything at the funeral, just the dead — my two girls’ faces staring at me. I’m told there were so many people! I didn’t see anybody, and I don’t remember anything about it. My girls wanted to have their own rooms, they really dreamed about them. Now they got their own graves! Separate ones!
Vladimir (another parent):
We came to this country and we brought our children, so they could live here and this country prospered. We didn’t know something like that might happen. Maybe it’s our own fault. I don’t want to blame either the Jews or the Arabs. I don’t want to blame anybody. But why are our children getting killed? I don’t want that. May they rest in peace.
A slim girl in black:
I was supposed to be at that disco, too. But I had been hospitalized just before that, I was feeling sick, and I didn’t go. I knew about the attack within five minutes. Lena was a very good, very close friend of mine. I just have no words for this. I saw her last on Wednesday, and I talked to her on the phone on Thursday. She was studying for her exams.
A young boy:
I was supposed to be there, too. My friends invited me. But I said, “Let’s go to Beit Opera instead.” Seven minutes after we arrived, we heard the explosion, and I ran over there. I saw a sea of blood, and I saw a girl who was torn in two. I didn’t know who she was. When I found out, I was in shock. I had known the sisters for three years.
I was in the same class with Yulia. She always smiled at everybody, she was always doing well. I didn’t go to the disco, I was in Ramat Gan, and even there you could hear the explosion.
Members of Knesset expressed condolences and offered to bury our son here. We explained he was on a tourist visa. They said they could settle the formalities. But we decided to bury him in Ukraine: our son did not want to stay here permanently, he had come here to earn some money and continue his studies in Ukraine and open a business there. He might have come back here in the future.
When we went back to Ukraine, everything was set: the coffin paid for, the catering hall booked. We live in a small town, so everybody already knew everything. We have many relatives and friends, and all came to support us. We had not even expected that they would take it so close to heart — as a pain of their own. A lot of people came: three large buses, about twenty cars, and three minivans. Onlookers said it looked like two funerals — that’s how long the cortege was.
Tanechka, Diaz’s mother, flew in the next day. She was completely taken care of by the Defense Ministry. Diaz was buried at the military cemetery with all the honors. She could see how much he was loved here. All his friends came: ones with whom he had gone to school and ones with whom he had served in the Army. So Tanya decided to stay, for the sake of her child who had wanted so much for her to move here — he had cried himself hoarse to get her to move. Now she’s an Israeli citizen. They already gave her an apartment.
Catrin liked it here in Israel, because she was with me. She loved Israel. She had fun, she had many friends. She was great friends with Alena. She had her birthday two days before the attack, and she told me that Friday night the disco would be free for the girls, and so I allowed her to go with Alena. And what do I have now? Just my grief. I still can’t believe . . .
Sergei Grankin, Vesti Newspaper:
The vaulted space of St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa was filled with subdued music and high-pitched female voices. There were many flowers and wreaths. The small coffin was covered with Israeli and Columbian flags. The front rows are filled with sobbing children, many of whom have fresh bandages — they must have gone to Jaffa straight from the hospital.
They had come to say the final farewell to the fifteen-year-old Catrin. For the last five years, she has been coming here every week. Two years ago, the excited girl in a white dress had here her first confirmation, and the priest said, “Now you’re an adult . . .” Catrin would never get older.
The school principal said at her coffin: “Your face will belong to the angel who will be a guardian angel for the rest of our children.”
A niche in the cement wall was prepared for Catrin at the Catholic cemetery in Jaffa, but her disconsolate mother demanded that her daughter be buried in the ground, “the holy ground of Israel.”
A marble cross over a grave, a sea of flowers, and a modest plaque,
"Catrin Castaneda Talker, 1986–2001–12–08. We are left with a memory only."
I saw the tape of Catrin’s funeral: the coffin, the candles, and her mother, Ludi, who was completely beside herself, just as she had been at Abu Kabir. She no longer howled, but she could not be calmed down.
I brought the body to the village of Grigorovo-Brigadirovka, where my first husband’s mother lives. Everybody had already gathered, all the relatives, all the friends from Komsomolsk-on-Dnieper — all who live in Ukraine. Even the girl who had waited for him, though he had not promised anything — she came, too . . . Such a nice girl! She came with her parents both for the funeral and for the fortieth-day remembrance service. She loved him very much. I met her family afterwards and spoke to them . . . It had been my dream that he get married as soon as possible.
Many people came just to show sympathy — the whole village. There were a lot of wreaths and flowers. All his friends wanted to be the pallbearers, and had to take turns. When we came to the cemetery, they put the coffin on a special elevation, so that everybody could come freely and say good-bye. His friends were in such shock that no one could say anything. The relatives were in shock, too. As for me . . . those were the last seconds, and I didn’t have any words either. All I could say was, Serezhenka, my darling boy, I love you so very much!
There was not enough space in the house for everybody, so they set the tables at the local club for the wake. And we sat down and remembered him in our prayers.
There were government representatives making speeches at the funeral, and I told them afterwards that I was not the last bereaved mother. If I was the last bereaved mother, I would be happy that my son was the last one to die for Israel. But he’s not the last. So many people have died in the three months since! What can I do!
The funeral was held the next day. The town mayor came, and other members of the town administration, and I’m very grateful for their assistance. The state I was in, I didn’t know where to turn. There were so many people there! I could see that my grief touched everybody. Even strangers from other towns came to share my grief.
She was buried the same day she had died. The day was clear and sunny. We came home from the hospital at half past eleven, and right away, we lit the candle that would stay lit through the seven-day mourning.
The town-hall workers were already at our house. They took care of all the arrangements: there were mourning announcements; they had ordered buses, wreaths, and flowers; they had taken care of the grave plot. We were supplied with food and everything needed in moments like this. We had so many people at our house. All her friends came, our friends and relatives, my friends from work, our neighbors, my elder daughter’s Army friends, and just strangers . . . Suddenly we started getting calls from friends from all over the world: Uzbekistan, Canada, America, Germany. They found out about our tragedy from radio and TV and the Internet.
There were so many buses taking us to the funeral. I was astounded by the number of people.
My elder daughter was taken to the cemetery in a wheelchair. She couldn’t walk, she kept fainting . . .
Later, when they read the burial service for Yulia, my husband fainted, the children screamed and sobbed . . .
They wanted to turn it into a kind of a rally, but then they stopped when they saw both my husband and my elder daughter unconscious. As for me, I guess I just didn’t realize she was being buried. I stood and stared and didn’t even cry. I couldn’t.
When she was being taken from the elevation where the service had been held at the grave, I was walking next to her and kept my hand on the shroud. I felt her hand all along. When her body was being lowered into the grave, everybody was weeping but me. I was watching and worrying that they don’t drop the body, that they don’t hurt her. Then everybody tossed a handful of soil. Sveta couldn’t reach for one from her wheelchair, so I had to put it in her hand.
I’m still tormented that I didn’t cry. But I couldn’t. I had no tears. My soul turned to stone. Later, a rabbi read a prayer over the grave, and they covered it with flowers . . .
When I was on the bus, I looked towards the graves. They got all buried side by side — eight fresh graves. I saw Shaul, Yulia’s friend, kneel and light a candle and stay there for a long time. We all waited for him. He didn’t talk for three days after the funeral — just couldn’t talk.
And then we went home.
I was astounded: so many strangers came to support us and stay with us at the hospital! They brought food and medication. You felt you were never alone. I’m grateful to them all. I wasn’t left alone for a single moment. Friends came, and some people from the north and the south whom I had never seen before.
We got back home from Abu Kabir around eleven-thirty. Our relatives and friends came. Then we started thinking where she should be buried. Since the children died together, we wanted them to be buried together.
The problem is that my mother is not Jewish, so Irina had to be buried in a separate plot. At midnight, we got a call that we could bury her where we wanted — at Ha-Yarkon.
We thought she would be buried with other children, but it was still a different plot. But it turned out to be a good one, right in the center, next to a palm tree alley. She has a palm tree over her head.
The funeral was to start at eleven in the morning. At ten, a minivan arrived for the family and a bus for friends.
There were lots of people and flowers and wreaths. Several buses came with children from the Shevah-Mofet School, and all of our friends and relatives from all over Israel. A lot of people came from Mega Supermarket, where I work; from my husband’s job; Pavlik’s student friends and Tel Aviv University instructors; even people from Pavlik’s part-time job . . . There were many officials from Bat Yam town administration, from Knesset, from SELA — I can’t remember all.
At first, there were speeches. Her school principal said what a wonderful girl she was, what a good student. Then, someone from Knesset, but I don’t remember who. I was in the fog, I kept crying. Then a rabbi spoke. I kept wanting to come up to her, to where she was lying on a kind of a stretcher. But they wouldn’t let me, out of fear I’ll faint and fall down. I was on the verge; I was medicated all the time.
Then I asked to let us — my husband, my son, and me — say good-bye to her. Men formed a circle, sort of blocking us away from the rest, and they opened her face. She was as beautiful as ever, just like when I saw her at Abu Kabir, except her body was swaddled in white.
When she was being buried, I was led by my arms to the grave, because my feet refused to walk.
When they read a prayer at the grave, I stared at the sky. It was a cerulean blue. And I thought how her soul was ascending there at this very moment. And I asked God: If my daughter’s life was stopped so abruptly, then let her in Heaven, so that she would be an angel and guard us. That’s what I kept asking Him about.
When they lowered the body, I asked that they lay a piece of white-and-pink lace on top of the white sheet she was wrapped in, because she was still a girl. A bride. I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. The words wouldn’t come out. I kept swallowing tears in silence.
I tossed the first handful of soil. Then others did, too, until the grave was covered completely, and a small hillock was formed. Instantly, it disappeared under a pile of flowers and wreaths. And they also placed some stones nearby, and there were candles burning around — a lot of candles.
I didn’t want to leave. We, the closest of kin, the closest of friends, we were the last to leave.
When they asked me where I wanted to have her buried, I asked to place her close to my husband, so that I wouldn’t have to run across the cemetery. So they arranged it in the same row; he’s in Number 7, and she is in the Number 15.
A lot of people came to the funeral. My boss called everybody with whom I had once worked in Tashkent. People came from Haifa, Ashdod, Netaniya. My relatives called everybody, too, so I saw people I had never seen or heard of, mostly distant relatives on my late husband’s side. I would ask who such-and-such was, they’d tell me, and I’d forget right away, because I was in a fog, I had no idea what was going on. When it was time to go to the funeral, the car came by, and I was told that she was in there. I started screaming that I wanted to be with her, but they wouldn’t let me; they told me that, according to tradition, only men could ride in that car.
There were a lot of buses, lots of people at the funeral — flowers, wreaths, speeches, but all of it depressed me further, it was hard for me to listen to it all in Hebrew, and I just wanted to cry. When the speeches were over, I rushed to the coffin and screamed that I wanted to see her. She was taken to a separate room, and someone went with me, I don’t remember who, and they uncovered her face for me. It was coated in cotton balls, they were pushed aside, and I saw my daughter’s face.
Then it was covered again, and she was taken to her grave. I kept trying to rush towards her, Gena [brother-in-law] was holding me back, and I heard my mother tell him to hold me so that I didn’t fall. I kept screaming, Give me back my daughter, don’t put her under, it’s heavy on her — that’s all I remember.
So many people came to the funeral — like half the country, it seemed. The doors to our apartment never closed. We didn’t have a moment for our spirits to get low — there was someone coming in every minute.
I didn’t calm down and I never will. No mother would, I think. I remember her funeral. I remember that her last essay was being read. She had had a Russian exam on her last birthday. She wrote a paper about why one has to serve in the Army in Israel. She didn’t used to want to be drafted; she was afraid. But she thought she needed it, that it would be good for her. By the end of her studies, she convinced herself that she had to go, she had to earn money for her studies . . .
Also, she had problems with Hebrew, and she thought she would master it in the service. Her Russian teacher read aloud her essay, but I don’t know who else spoke at the funeral.
I remember her body being lowered into the grave. I remember it well. I remember the bloodstain on the shroud. It was Sunday morning — the third day after the attack — and there was still blood on the shroud, on the back of her head. This is what they did to my child.
We posed the question where she should be buried while we were still at Abu Kabir. We decided it would be at Kibbutz Givat Brenner.
On the day of the funeral, I had been waiting to see Liana since morning. I wanted so much for them to take the coffin up to the apartment and open it. But they said it was too wide. And I was still seated there on the terrace, until the last moment, all petrified, waiting for my dear daughter to be brought in. I wanted very much to place her favorite doll on her chest. But I was told that they were already setting the tables for the wake at the kibbutz, and that’s where they’d open the coffin. Under the tree outside the house, Petya started screaming — why can’t we open the coffin?
I thought about it, but then I remembered her eyes, and I decided Petya shouldn’t see it.
We called the Orthodox priest. When he was saying the prayers, he handed me some little book, but I didn’t take it. I can’t, I said; I’m not a believer.
Then we all got on buses and rode to the kibbutz. There were a lot of people. As a family, we were in a separate bus. Everybody at the kibbutz expected me to go into a shaking-weeping fit, but I was still completely petrified, I still couldn’t cry. I didn’t cry for weeks. They never opened the coffin there. And I was still silent.
I got back my voice when we were told we couldn’t have a Russian-style wake. But then we had one anyway.