KKL-JNF Memorial Ceremony for Victims of the Israeli Embassy Bombing in Buenos Aires

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Thirty years later and Still Seeking Justice

Thirty years later and Still Seeking Justice

In a memorial ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Israeli and Argentine government officials and representatives of KKL-JNF called for justice for the 29 people killed and 242 injured in what has remained in the deadliest attack on an Israeli mission.

Sponsored annually by KKL-JNF at the KKL-JNF Argentina-Israel Friendship Forest, this was the first time the ceremony was held after two years of Covid-19 restrictions.

The March 16 ceremony was also live-streamed.

Photo: Yossi Ifergan, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

For bombing survivor Ana Aruj, 77, who came to the ceremony from Haifa with her daughter, the call for justice was very personal. She ran her finger along the names of her dead colleagues engraved in a memorial stone at the memorial for the victims of the both the embassy bombing, and the victims of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires which occurred two years later on July 18, 1994.

Eighty people were killed and over 300 injured in the AMIA building, make it Argentina’s deadliest terrorist attack.
Aruj said it was important for her to come to the ceremony this year to remember and honor the victims because she didn’t know how many more times she would be able to come.

“I have come to honor those people who stayed there buried in the ground, the victims, and to cry out for justice to be done some day,” said Aruj, who made Aliyah in 2006. “This is a very important place for me.”

Both Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Argentinians, were killed in the attack on the Israeli embassy, which also destroyed a nearby Catholic church and a school.

Aruj was among five people trapped on the top floor of the embassy when the suicide truck bomb went off. She doesn’t remember the moment of the explosion, she said, but she was brought back to consciousness by a friend calling out her name. The five colleagues dug their way out of the rubble, and dragged themselves out as rescuers came to help them, jumping from the window to get to another building. She remembers that for a very long time no one was able to touch her as her body had been pierced by so many glass shards, which could only be expelled naturally by her body.

She has healed physically from the attack, she said, but it is something you don’t ever heal from emotionally.
“You learn how to live with the memory,” Aruj said.

In addition to members of the Argentine community in Israel, officials attending the ceremony were:
Sergio Uribarri, Argentine ambassador to Israel; Hernan Felman, Vice-president of World KKL; Alon Bar, Deputy Director of International Organizations, of the Israel Foreign Ministry; Einat Kranz Neiger, Deputy Director of Latin America and Carribean Divison of the Foreign Ministry; Yaakov Hagoel, President of the World Zionist Organization and Interim President of the Jewish Agency;  Daniel Gazit, former ambassador of Israel in Argentina;  Rafi Eldad, was working at the embassy at the time of the bombing and was later the ambassador of Israel to Argentina; Leon Amiras, Vice-president of OLEI organization for Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese immigrants to Israel; and Nili Pitchon, director of the KKL-JNF Department of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, which coordinated the ceremony.

“The victims of that attack deserve to know that those guilty of that terrible attack have been brought to justice,” said Felman. “But 30 years later we are still without justice and we will keep demanding it with the same determination as we did from the first day. If this attack can happen without any consequence to those who committed the crime, such attacks can happen again—and so it was two years later with the attack on AMIA were 85 more victims were killed.”

It is well-known who sent the terrorists who carried out that attack, said Felman: Iran.
“The impunity continues and those who carried out the attack continue to walk around on this earth,” he said. “But we continue our demand for justice in the maybe naïve hope, that someday we will be able to stop asking.”

Uribarri said Argentina unconditionally condemned the “unprecedented attack” by terrorists which sought to destroy human lives indiscriminately , damage both Israel and Argentina, and to endanger the friendship between the two countries.

“But the terrorists did not achieve their goals,” he said. “Thirty years after the attack the friendship between our two countries continues to prosper and grow. We all need to continue the memory of this terrible event so it will not be repeated.”

Uribarri noted that when he served as governor of the Argentine province of Entre Rios his administration issued a decision that the history of the Holocaust was to be taught in all elementary, junior high and high schools in the province.
“The teaching of the Holocaust is essential to prevent it from being repeated,” he said.

He thanked KKL-JNF for continuing to perpetuate the memory of the victims through the memorial service.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry can never forget the attack and stands in solidarity with the victims of the attack and their families, said Bar.

“This attack did not make us weaker or stop us from reaching our goal,” said Kranz Neiger. “It only strengthened our resolve and understanding of the importance to continue our struggle (against terrorism) and the need to seek out partnerships with other countries to continue seeking truth and justice.”

Gazit noted that after 30 years true justice against those who perpetrated the attack might not be possible, but what needs to be done is to change the international attitude toward terrorist groups.

“When they see there are no consequences they continue with their attacks,” he said. “The world did not seek justice after the attack and the injustice continued in the world with Al Qaida, and Da’ash and Hamas in places like Paris, Kenya and London.”
But he said, “we will remember our loved ones and not let our enemies defeat us.”

Amiras emphasized the importance of education of the younger generation so that the attack will not be forgotten.
“We remember the victims and will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and continue asking that justice be done,” added Hagoel.
“We all know who is responsible for the attack and who sent the terrorists: Hezbollah by Iran,” said Pitchon. “And still after 30 years we have yet to get any answers. When will the world understand that Israel’s war against terrorism is an international war which needs to be fought together?  Thirty  years after the attack, and we are here at the Argentine-Israel Friendship Forest asking for justice.”

Eldad, who was working at the Israeli ambassy in Argentina at the time, recalled coming back from a meeting at the AMIA building to the bombing destruction of the embassy building. Already he knew who as responsible, he said: Hezbollah with the support of Iran.
“It seems like such a long time ago, and yet at the same times it seem like it was yesterday,” said Eldad. “I remember my feeling of impotency, of desperation, of sadness. At this event we take the time to remember the victims.”

He specifically recalled his secretary Marcella Drobles, who was only 28 when she was killed in the bombing.
“She was still at the age of dreaming, of planning her life, and all at once that was cut short so cruelly,” he said.

At this memorial ceremony thirty years since the attack—and the attack on AMIA two years later—it is always important to ask for justice to be done, Eldad said before leading the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.