Category Archives: Israeli victims

Israeli FM concerned about fate of 4,000 Israelis at WTC

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has so far received the names of 4,000 Israelis believed to have been in the areas of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the time of the attacks.

Israelis mourn U.S. tragedy; feel like it 'happened to us'

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Friday September 14, 2001

JERUSALEM — It was a quiet day on Bethlehem Road in Jerusalem, where cars usually clog the narrow street lined with small shops and locals like to chat over coffee at one of several cafes.

But the sorrow and sadness over America's terrorist tragedy was palpable Wednesday, declared as a day of mourning by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"We feel like this happened to us," Victor Levy said, sitting behind the counter of his newsstand. "Everybody's been mourning since this happened because it feels like our tragedy."

As a day of mourning, flags at all government offices were flown at half-staff. Radio stations played slow music while the state-run television stations remained focused on the aftermath of the hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington for much of the day.

Like many Israelis, Levy had his eyes glued to CNN, where images of the destroyed World Trade Center were displayed on the television mounted above the counter.

His neighbor across the street, Yehiel Tobol, was in the same position in his corner grocery store. He bagged cartons of milk and made change, but found it hard to tear his eyes away from the television set.

"This is a national disaster for us as well," Tobol said. "It's a deep, shocking hit that we've all taken."

Tobol, like many of the shop owners on Bethlehem Road, serves a large number of American immigrants who live in the neighborhood, many of them former New Yorkers.

But it wasn't just the American immigrants living in Israel who were mourning the devastation caused by the terror attacks.

Israelis were deeply affected as well, and their grief-stricken faces said it all.

"I felt it all day long," Timna Ella, 26, said, while stacking cans of cat food in her pet shop. "New York is a symbol of freedom, I can't wait to go back there and all of a sudden I feel like I've been hit in the gut."

Ella, like many young Israelis, spent more than a year in the United States. She lived with a family in a Westchester County suburb, working as an au pair. But her weekends were spent with friends in the city.

"I feel like a New Yorker," Ella said, blinking away tears. "I called all my friends in Boston, in New York, in Chicago. But I sent e-mails when I couldn't get through on the phone."

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has so far received the names of 4,000 Israelis believed to have been in the areas of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the time of the attacks. The fate of many of them are not yet known.

"It's like Judgment Day," Ashira Keyran said, sitting with her two sons, Dan, 24 and Ori, 16, outside their home just off Bethlehem. "I feel a lot of sadness and if I forget for a moment, someone says something and I'm reminded all over again."

Her sons, particularly Dan, said they felt more distant from the tragedy.

"If people get killed here, it hurts me more," Dan said. "I have this sense of Israel saying, 'I told you so, because we've been fighting terror all along.' Now Americans will know what it's like in the Middle East."

Ashira didn't admonish her son. But she shook her head and sighed.

"This is like hundreds of times worse than the Sbarro bombing," she said, referring to the recent suicide bombing in a Jerusalem pizzeria that killed 15 Israelis.

"It's about intense hatred of America, and they don't deserve that kind of hatred. No one does."

Hundreds of Israelis missing in WTC attack


12 September 2001 

Hundreds of Israelis missing in WTC attack


By The Jerusalem Post Internet

A UNITED Airlines spokesman confirmed that Alona Avraham, a resident of Ashdod, was a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 75, the second hijacked plane to crash into the World Trade Center in New York. [This story last updated 14:30]

Avraham was in her mid-twenties and had recently finished university studies.

Avraham had spent a few days in Boston with friends and was heading for Los Angeles for a two-week visit, to include Rosh Hashanah.

Israeli Daniel Levin, 31, was also reported to be on one of the hijacked planes that was forced down by terrorists, Army Radio reported.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has so far received the names of 4,000 Israelis believed to have been in the areas of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the time of the attack.

Israeli foreign missions in New York City and Washington are also working overtime to locate missing Israelis. For emergency telephone numbers set up to aid in the search and rescue efforts, click here.

Tom Tugend contributed to this report


The Jerusalem Post, September 12, 2002, Thursday, NEWS; Pg. 3:

"The family of Alona Avraham, 30, who was on the ill- fated United Airlines flight 175 traveling from Boston to Los Angeles, came from Ashdod with large photographs of her pinned to their clothing with the inscription "Alona, we remember you." The photograph is especially important to them, because her remains were never recovered. Also in attendance were the families of Daniel Lewin, 31, who was on board American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, which crashed into the north tower, Shai Levinhar, 29, who worked for a subsidiary of the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage in the north tower, and Hagai Shefi, 34, who was on the 106th floor of the north tower when American Airlines Flight 11 hit. The fifth Israeli killed, London-born Leon Lebor, 51, was working at his job as a janitor in the twin towers when they were attacked."

No Israeli employees in the WTC dead

No Israeli employees in the WTC dead


Officials Say Number of Those Still Missing May Be Overstated

By ERIC LIPTON, New York Times, Sept. 22, 2001

City officials said yesterday that the number of people listed as missing and feared lost in the World Trade Center disaster, which had climbed as high as 6,333, could fall significantly because of problems with reports of missing people from foreign countries and other sources.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said the reports of missing foreign citizens, which had helped increase the number of those listed as missing and perhaps dead by about 1,000 over the last three days, probably involved many people who had been counted twice or who in fact were neither working at nor visiting the twin towers.

"It’s likely to go down," Mr. Giuliani said of the total. He added, "I don’t think anybody knows yet if that number is going to go back down to 4,000 or 5,000 or it’s going to remain at where it is when they all net out."

The city’s official number of those feared lost in the attacks has been followed by the public with enormous concern, for many have regarded it as a responsible approximation of how great the final death toll could be. The importance of the number is all the greater, officials acknowledge, because of the real possibility that the destruction at the site of the towers was so complete as to make identifying all victims an impossibility.

Ultimately, then, the final count of the missing could become the count of the dead.

As a result, the chance that there could be double-counting or other confusions involving the city’s numbers of the missing moved officials yesterday to urge caution in interpreting the daily accounting.

Just precisely how the city has been compiling its lists of the reported missing has been somewhat unclear from the first day after the disaster. Officials have, over time, created a kind of database of names and have resisted simply accepting reports of, in effect, lump sums of possible victims.

But names in the database have come from a variety of sources. Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik said that the city had compiled its list of the missing from the Red Cross, companies that had offices at the trade center and a number of police departments across the region. He said the multiple sources of reporting could have led to some duplication even beyond that involving foreign citizens.

"The numbers can change," Mr. Kerik said. "How much, we don’t know at this point."

The same person could be counted once in the total provided by Cantor, and then again as reported by family members.

It has become clear, though, that the question of foreign citizens has been the most problematic in efforts to keep the city’s count accurate. Over the last several days, the city’s list of the missing became inflated by what officials said were missing persons reports from consulates and embassies for countries including India and Israel.

But interviews with many consulate officials yesterday suggested that the lists of people they were collecting varied widely in their usefulness. For example, the city had somehow received reports of many Israelis feared missing at the site, and President Bush in his address to the country on Thursday night mentioned that about 130 Israelis had died in the attacks.

But today, Alon Pinkas, Israel’s consul general here, said that lists of the missing included reports from people who had called in because, for instance, relatives in New York had not returned their phone calls from Israel. There were, in fact, only three Israelis who had been confirmed as dead: two on the planes and another who had been visiting the towers on business and who was identified and buried.

In an effort to avoid further problems with the reports from foreign countries, Mr. Giuliani said the city had now created a separate list to deal with the names. He said that the new list, once it was sorted out, could come to include people who actually might be missing at the disaster site. But he and other officials indicated that that number was likely to be very small.

Indeed, Mr. Kerik said that the city’s early inquiry into the newest 1,200 reports of foreigners perhaps missing had left him skeptical. One country, he said, had reported 56 people feared to be missing at the site. After checking, officials now believe that none, in fact, had been in the buildings.

Experts were not surprised by the difficulty of creating and maintaining a reliable list of people feared lost at the scene of the trade center attacks.

David E. Garratt, director of the emergency support team at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is helping in the New York effort, said the challenges presented by the trade center disaster were, for him, unprecedented.

"When you are dealing with a building that has a large business community, a large number of foreign businesses and that is a tourist attraction where the tourists do not have to register by name, it is legitimately difficult to quickly and confidently establish a missing population," Mr. Garratt said.

To date, the city has confirmed 252 dead, of which 183 people have been identified. Of those 183, 39 of them are from the uniformed services, meaning firefighters, police officers and others.

But along with the dwindling confidence at the site that anyone will be found alive, there has been a growing awareness among rescuers and city officials of how hard it may well be to positively identify many of those who died in the collapses.

Any human remains, even if they are several parts from a single person, can be linked to a single person through DNA.

If the city has a sample of the victim’s DNA on file, from a toothbrush or a comb, then it is nearly certain that it can link a body or body parts to a missing person.

The challenge is finding the body parts in what could be 1.5 million to 2 million tons of debris.

"You just have to assume there will be some gap in between the number of missing and the confirmed dead," said Barry Scheck, a professor of law at the Cardozo School of Law and an expert on DNA testing.

But even establishing a reliable rough figure for the missing seemed at least briefly elusive yesterday. The mayor, for one, seemed to send conflicting messages.

At one point, Mr. Giuliani predicted that the number of missing might not change significantly. But then he said that it could drop to perhaps as low as 4,000 or 5,000 people from its current 6,333.