Israel Bus Bombing Claims Young Victims
HAIFA, Israel (AP) _ Each day, 13-year-old Yuval Mendelevitch made sure to call his father, telling him what he had done at school and what time he would be home.
On Wednesday, the conversation was cut short when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a city bus in this northern city, killing Yuval and 14 other passengers, including an American girl. Many victims were teenagers.
``Suddenly, out of nowhere, he said, ‘I love you, Dad.’ Then the line went dead,″ his father Yossi Mendelevitch told Israeli army radio Thursday. ``It turns out that those were his last words.″
Yuval was one of three students from the prestigious Reali school killed in the blast, which ripped through the No. 37 bus a few yards from the school. Of the victims, nine were younger than 18. At least two victims were Arabs, one of them 13, and two were off-duty Israeli soldiers.
Another victim was one of Yuval’s classmates _ U.S.-born Abigail Litle, a Christian.
Born in Lebanon, N.H., Abigail was an infant when her parents brought her to Israel in 1989. The family settled in Haifa, where her father, Philip, from Harrisonville, Mo., was studying at the Technion, Israel’s premier technological institute. After the family decided to stay on in the Jewish state, he took a job with a Baptist church.
``For Abigail, it was always that someone be valued as a person, not as an object defined by nationality, `` said Philip Litle, sharing his agony over having to identify his daughter’s body.
Abigail was involved in a school program that worked to promote understanding between Arab and Jewish students.
Her teacher, Nurit Harel, described Abigail as a strong-willed teenager who once refused to let a raging fever prevent her from going to school for a sports competition.
``Pupils phoned her and she told them that although she was ill she would be there,″ Harel told the radio station. ``She did the best she could and the points she earned won the class first place.″
She was to be buried in Haifa on Sunday.
In the hallway of the Reali school hangs a large, colorful paper lion, made by Yuval for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim. His classmates say it was the last thing he did before taking the bus trip that killed him.
By Thursday, students had set up an impromptu memorial, with flickering candles and photos of their friends and articles cut from the morning newspapers.
Principal Ron Kitrey said that the 3,200 students were close, despite the school’s size.
``There is a feeling of one big family, and of great pain,″ he said.
Wednesday’s bus bombing brought to six the number of Reali students killed in Palestinian attacks since the September 2000 outbreak of the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
While most of the bus victims were teenagers, two were soldiers in their early 20s. The bomber himself was a 20-year-old student, who police said had a letter on his body declaring his intention to carry out a suicide bombing and praising the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the Haifa bombing.
Yossi Mendelevitch described the news of his son’s death as ``an ink blot, spreading across the consciousness.″
Called to the national forensic institute in Tel Aviv, he was warned to bring Yuval’s dental x-rays so that he would not have to view what the bomb had left of his boy.
``I want to remember Yuval whole,″ he said. ``In one piece.″