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Rally Draws 500 Jewish Students

April 17, 2002|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To link the violence in the Middle East to their lives in the United States, more than 500 students from Jewish schools in Los Angeles assembled Tuesday to remember Americans killed in Israel and call on the U.S. government to prosecute Palestinians who harm Americans.

The gathering of six Orthodox middle and high schools at B'nai David-Judea synagogue on Pico Boulevard was more solemn than recent rallies and demonstrations by American Jews in cities nationwide. The second annual assembly corresponded on the Jewish calendar to Yom HaZikaron, a day reserved for honoring those killed by enemies of Israel and Jews.

After hearing about four Americans killed in Israel, the students wrote letters to California's congressional delegation, urging members to establish an office to monitor attacks by Palestinians or anyone acting on behalf of Palestinian organizations.

The Koby Mandell Act, which is in congressional committees, would authorize rewards for information leading to the arrests of suspected terrorists. The legislation is named for a Maryland 14-year-old who was stoned to death last year in the West Bank.

"The American government has to protect its citizens no matter where they are," said Aviva Robin, a senior at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School.

One of the Americans remembered, Shoshana Hayman Greenbaum, graduated from Yeshiva, known as YULA, and taught at Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks, which was represented at Tuesday's assembly. Greenbaum, 31, was killed in August in a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizzeria. Her father, Alan Hayman, shared memories of the teacher on Tuesday.

Large photographs at the front of the synagogue also showed Mandell; 14-year-old Yael Botwin, who grew up in Claremont and died in a 1997 bombing in Jerusalem; and Yitzhak Weinstock, a Los Angeles rabbi's grandson, who was killed in a drive-by shooting near Jerusalem in 1993.

"These people were regular people just like you and me, and they were killed while they were living their everyday lives," said Ayelet Fischer, a senior at YULA who organized the assembly.

For Fischer, her classmates and students from Emek, Shalhevet High School and Maimonides Academy in West Hollywood, West Valley Hebrew Academy in Woodland Hills and Hillel Harkham Academy in Beverly Hills, the events in Israel have personal meaning. They have relatives there, siblings serve in its army, and many of the Los Angeles students hope to spend a year in Israel before college.

The bloody strife between Israelis and Palestinians is "on everyone's minds, constantly," said senior Liz Shrier, who would like to join the Israeli army before entering Columbia University.

"Even though we don't live in Israel," she said, "we live a life of fear."

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