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SHOOTING AT LAX

Families, Friends Remember Loved Ones Killed in Shooting

July 06, 2002|ANNA GORMAN and KARIMA A. HAYNES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

From the San Fernando Valley to Israel, families of the two people killed in the July 4 shootings at Los Angeles International Airport prepared for their final farewells.

Jacob Aminov, a 46-year-old father of eight, and Victoria Hen, a 25-year-old El Al Israel Airlines ticket agent, both were being mourned in the ancient traditions of their Jewish faith.

Hen's family planned to bury their only daughter Sunday at Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills. They will be sitting shiva, the weeklong period of mourning, from their home on a leafy street in suburban Chatsworth.

Mourners clustered Friday to recall Hen's journey from childhood in Israel to her job at LAX.

Hen emigrated from Israel in 1990 with her parents and two younger brothers. Her father, Avi, established an automotive parts business and the family eventually settled into a ranch-style home in Chatsworth. Hen, who lived at home with her parents, was the eldest child, an only daughter who grounded her family of five.

"Vicky was the center of this family," Joseph Knoller, a family spokesman, told a news conference Friday at the family home. "The parents are devastated. They can barely speak. They are in a position of denial. They expect her to walk in the door, but we know that won't happen."

Hen attended Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. In her senior year, she was a member of the Jewish Awareness club and Careers With Children club, according to the 1995 yearbook.

After graduation, she worked as the office manager for a construction company and for a physician, said Knoller, who later hired her at his private security firm in Woodland Hills.

She later landed the counter job for a firm that contracted with the Israeli airline.

"She was very knowledgeable about security and had no fear working at El Al," Knoller said, adding that one of her proudest moments had been the escorting of her paternal grandparents onto their return flight to Israel after a visit in May.

Hen, who had worked with El Al for almost two months, was fatally shot as she checked in passengers at the airline's ticket counter.

Hen often spoke about her desire to get married and have a family.

"She would go to work with a smile. Everyone would see Vicky with a beautiful smile," Knoller said.

Aminov's family, heeding his wishes to be buried in Israel, will wait until Sunday to deliver his body to his homeland--aboard an El Al plane.

He will be sent off with a hesbed, or eulogy, at his North Hollywood synagogue. Family members will speak briefly about his generosity, his devotion to his family and his religious dedication.

On Monday, the diamond importer, who owned a business in downtown Los Angeles, will be buried near Tel Aviv in shrouds and a plain pine coffin, according to Jewish tradition.

Aminov was a man of modest means who lived a simple but profoundly spiritual life, friends recalled.

He did not decorate his home extravagantly--but he treasured items that mattered most to him, such as holy books and pictures of religious leaders.

"He lived a very down-to-earth life," said friend Michael Benvenitz, 35.

Aminov, who donated his time freely, was shot to death near the El Al counter while escorting a friend who was flying to Israel. He was frequently a host to such visitors from Israel and held religious lectures in his home.

He helped found the Sephardic synagogue Yad Avraham--Hand of Abraham--in a converted office space at a North Hollywood shopping center.

Aminov would sit quietly in the same corner of the synagogue every day, proud of the religious home he had helped to build.

"Words cannot explain what kind of a person he was, what kind of heart he had," said Benvenitz, who could not remember that his friend had ever missed a prayer service during the 10 years they had belonged to the synagogue together.

As word spread about Aminov's death, hundreds of friends went to the Valley Village house Friday to visit with Aminov's family and offer support. At the house, they ate, they hugged one another and they cried, said Rabbi Aron Tendler, a longtime friend.

Aminov had five children, 2 to 9 years old, with his wife Anat, who is pregnant with their sixth child. He also had three children from a previous marriage.

"It's unbelievable," said Tendler, a friend who heads the Shaarei Zedek congregation in North Hollywood. "We have had to chase people away."

Injured in the shooting were Haim Sapir, the El Al security chief who shot and killed the alleged gunman, and Canadian Sarah Phillips, 61, who had come to Los Angeles to visit friends and was recovering from a broken hip suffered last Christmas.

Phillips on Friday was in Centinela Hospital, where she underwent surgery to repair four damaged tendons in her right ankle. Doctors said Phillips was expected to be released from the hospital in two or three days.

Sapir, who is in his early 40s, was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and released, according to officials at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, who declined to specify his whereabouts Friday.

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