Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rabbi hopes to use wreckage to remember victims, teach

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Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette
Rabbi David Finkelstein talks about the remains of Bus 19 which are stored at Camp Shoresh in Adamstown. Eleven people were killed in Israel when a terrorist bombed the bus in 2004.
If all goes as Rabbi David Finkelstein plans, the Camp Shoresh Jewish day camp in Adamstown will become home to a moving new memorial to the victims of a tragic Jerusalem bus bombing.

Shortly before 9 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2004, a bus referred to as ‘‘Bus 19” was demolished by a 24-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber, killing 11 and wounding more than 50.

The mangled wreckage of the bus was eventually shipped to the United States and toured the country with an Evangelical Christian group as a tool for understanding the realities of terrorism and to promote peace.

Bus 19 was dropped off for scrapping at Reliable Junk in Frederick in spring 2007 after the tour ended, according to Carl Lazerow, the Shoresh board member heading the memorial project.

The scrap yard’s owner, a congregant at Beth Sholom Congregation, recognized something special about the bus with the Hebrew writing and contacted Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Morris Kosman.

Kosman realized it was Bus 19 and coordinated with Finkelstein to have the bus shipped to the camp a couple of days later.

It now sits at the foot of a hill far from the hustle and bustle of the 170-acre camp’s buildings and sports equipment in a secluded, pastoral field.

‘‘It’s placed on a location in the camp where it’s way out of view,” Lazerow said. ‘‘It’s in a very private area, and it’s a place where prayer can occur, where there can be a campfire as the sun goes down, where children can learn about Judaism, and what the effects of terrorism, hatred and bigotry are.”

Finkelstein has set up a contest asking Maryland high school and college students to submit design plans for a multi-faceted memorial to the victims of the bombing with Bus 19 as the centerpiece.

Plan proposals are due by March 31; the contest started about a week ago.

‘‘We’re going to be turning this into a living memorial to the victims. ... There’s going to be a memorial garden, and there’s going to be something to memorialize each of the 11 victims – something that tells the story of each of their lives – because otherwise it’s just a senseless waste of life,” said Finkelstein, director of Shoresh. ‘‘We also need to be able to cover the bus as soon as possible to protect it from the elements, so it will still have its full effect.”

The budget for the project is $36,000, and Shoresh is looking for corporate and private donations and sponsorships. The project’s planners have not decided yet whether the work will be done by volunteers or whether it will be done by a professional firm.

Washington, D.C. news photographer Carrie Devorah’s brother, Yecheckel Chezi, who also went by Scotty Goldberg, was one of the 11 people killed in the attack.

Chezi was an internationally known media personality from Beitar Ilit, a community outside of Jerusalem, and his death brought a lot of attention to the bombing.

Devorah has been involved with Bus 19 since the attack, and has spoken internationally about her brother and his murder in the hopes that people will be able to learn from his loss.

‘‘The center that the camp is hoping to work towards has the potential to help people understand on a greater level loss and murder,” she said. ‘‘It’s not just 11 dead bodies. It’s 11 dead family members.”

Devorah has been able to bring her own experience with the tragedy to the camp and share it with children and teens in a way that puts a human face on the bombing. She has spoken several times at the bus site in Adamstown – during events that include a reflective bonfire and a prayer session – and has been able to find some solace in its presence.

‘‘When the older kids came to the bonfire, it was hard not to hold them and share their tears,” she said. ‘‘The greatest sense of peace for me was hearing the kids say Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, at the bus for the first time. You could feel the peace that then came after the kids said Kaddish.”

Devorah, Finkelstein, and Lazerow say they hope that these lessons and feelings will be communicated to all who view the memorial once it is completed.

Submit a design

Students interested in submitting design proposals for the contest can refer to the guidelines at www.shoresh.com.