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February 7, 2003

Terrorism Strikes Home

From: WPMI, AL - 07 Feb 2003

(MOBILE, Ala.) February 7 - As the threat of war with Iraq looms, the war on terror continues. Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9-11 attacks, is also blamed for a recent suicide bombing in Kenya that shattered the lives of a local family.

Joy and Shaul Antar, a deaf couple living in Fairhope, had their world shattered by suicide bombers thousands of miles from home. They communicate with graceful hand gestures. Their message often heard through an interpreter. Yet, even if there were no spoken words, this couple's anguish would have been felt loud and clear at a recent memorial service in Mobile for their nephews, who were killed in the attacks. Standing in front of a large crowd at Ahavas Chesed Synagogue, Joy and Shaul thanked everyone for coming.

"People are sometimes in denial," says Leslie Lerner, who was one of the attendees. "'Oh, the attacks are happening in Israel' or somewhere else. When it hits here, it just made my heart stop for a moment because I knew the Antars."

"The ramifications are extreme and colossal," says Rabbi Steve Silberman. "What it teaches us is that hate is very powerful."

14-year-old Dvir and 12-year-old Noy Anter were killed by three suicide bombers on Thanksgiving Day.

"It's an awful thing when middle eastern terrorism against Israelis reaches into our Jewish community here in Mobile," says Larry Voit, who also attended the service. "We feel it. We feel it deeply."

Shaul's parents and 9 of his siblings live in Israel. To escape the violence, his brother Rami took his family on a vacation during the Chanukah break to the Paradise Hotel, a popular beach resort for Israelis. Rami and his wife planned this trip for years. "I remember thinking it can't be real," Joy says. "This can't be happening to us."

Especially because Shaul and Joy did not even know their relatives were in Kenya.

"I felt almost frozen, in shock," Shaul says.

The Antars' first learned about the bombing from the news on TV, but because the broadcasts were not completely closed captioned, it was difficult for them to get many details. That night, Shaul curiously logged on to a Hebrew news web site. It was then that the bombing halfway around the globe in Africa completely shook their world in quiet Fairhope, Alabama.

"Their names were right there in the article," Shaul says."I couldn't believe it."

16 people died, including the 3 suicide bombers. Rami's wife and daughter were in critical condition after being severely burned.

"And there was nothing left of the two boys," Shaul says. "Their bodies were gone. They were just dust from the fire."

A home video that was shot after the bombings shows Rami stumbling around the burning hotel, screaming for his boys.

"When the fire was put out, my brother was still looking around," Shaul says, "and he found a pair of braces that had belonged to his son. He was devastated."

Shaul flew to Israel to be with his family and to support his brother. With his own video camera, he captured 2 weeks worth of the raw emotion at the hospital and the grave site.

"The two of us, when we're alone, we've watched parts of it," Joy says, "and it makes me cry."

"When Israeli citizens are murdered by terrorists, innocent children are murdered, there is inevitable and justifiable anger," says Larry who attended the memorial service to support the family.

"They were such sweet boys," Joy says. "We feel robbed not being able to see them grow up."

Terrorism has no boundaries. It can happen anytime, or anyplace.

"None of us are really safe from terrorism," says Leslie. "But we as a community must stick together."

The Antars' pain will last a lifetime. They hope that the war and the killings of innocent people do not.

"It would be so much better to have peace," Shaul says. "There are good people all over, and we need to live together."

But, as the Antars know first hand, actions speak louder than words.

"So when will peace happen? I don't know. Maybe never," says Shaul. "It's very, very hard."

Rami's wife and daughter are still recovering in an Israeli hospital. $715 dollars was raised for the family at the local memorial service. If you would like to help support Rami, his wife Ora and their daughter Edva, you can go to their web site, to make a donation.

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