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Mother Describes Search After Bombing

March 3, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ For the Nachmani family, it was supposed to be a joyous weekend spent in the holy city of Jerusalem, celebrating a son’s coming-of-age in a traditional Jewish neighborhood.

But the serenity of the Sabbath’s close was shattered by a suicide bomber who detonated his charge outside a Jewish seminary Saturday evening, and Aviva Nachmani found herself searching a burning, flesh-strewn street for her children. She eventually found them unharmed.

``I heard a huge blast, I saw smoke and fire, it was so scary ... I yelled for my children,″ Nachmani said Sunday on Israel’s army radio. She said she was standing about 10 yards from the building where her family and friends were celebrating her son’s bar mitzvah when the blast occurred.

The Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside the entrance to the Mahane Israel seminary as observant Jews were leaving the building, emptying into streets of an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood bustling with residents and visitors following the end of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown.

The blast killed nine Israelis, six of them children, and wounded more than 30 other people. On Sunday, weeping relatives gathered for funerals in keeping with Jewish tradition calling for burial as soon as possible.

The explosion set several cars and a building on fire. Blood covered a stone wall at the seminary, where up to 1,000 Jews gather every Saturday evening.

``I saw a car on fire, and bodies on the ground, little babies so burnt you couldn’t see the bodies properly,″ Nachmani said. ``There were pieces of flesh all over the ground.″

Frantically searching for her children amid the carnage, Nachmani said she went past the fire on the street and into the building and searched each floor, screaming for her children _ and fearing they were dead.

``I went out and searched through the bodies. I thought maybe I would identify their clothes,″ she said.

``I searched the streets like a mad person, street by street _ it was crowded with people and I just screamed and screamed,″ she said, sobbing. ``I don’t know how to deal with this.″

Nachmani eventually found her three children, all unharmed. But her brother-in-law was critically injured, she said.

Among the dead were a woman and her 7-month-old son; a 12-year-old boy and his 1-year-old sister; and five members of a family _ a couple, two of their children, aged 3 and 7, and a 15-year-old relative.

Palestinian security sources said the bomber was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a faction of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.

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