One by one the names of the victims of the 1994 bombing of Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, were called during a memorial candle lighting ceremony.
This ceremony took place during a community-wide 22nd anniversary commemoration of the AMIA bombing that killed 85 people and injured 300. The American Jewish Committee’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American led this event, themed “The Domestic and International Threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism,” with the support of numerous Jewish organizations at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. More than 450 people were in attendance that evening, including consuls from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Spain, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica.
Juan Dircie, associate director for AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, said: “This event holds a special meaning for me personally as an Argentine Jew, and as someone who has worked consistently to strengthen Jewish life in the region.”
“We are honoring this evening the memory of the AMIA victims, whose lives were cut short 22 years ago as we also remember those victims of that same hatred who died in Paris, in Brussels, in Tel Aviv, in Orlando, in Istanbul, in Nice, in the last few months,” he continued.
Dircie concluded: “AJC will not give up until the impunity in the AMIA case is broken and the truth about the bombing is exposed Justice and Memory… Memory and Justice.”
Although no one has been brought to justice for the attack, Argentine prosecutors have accused the Iranian government of directing it and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of carrying it out.
Marcelo Giusto, Florida’s consul general of Argentina, told the attendees: “Today marks a new anniversary and the government and people of Argentina stand with relatives and survivors in the remembrance, in the homage and in the demand for justice.”
Representatives of the participating Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Broward County, Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Zionist Organization of America, etc., lit candles in memory of the victims. One of the candle lighters was Cantor Norman Cohen Falah of Temple Sinai of North Dade.
“On a personal note, this commemoration touches me very deeply, not only because I am Argentinean, but also because I was only five blocks away at the moment the attack was perpetrated,” Cohen Falah noted. “I was in a middle of a coffee break at work, when I suddenly heard the strange sound that happened at 9:53 a.m. on July 18, 1994, a sound that turned out to be the explosion of the car bomb that hit the AMIA building. I will never forget the taste of that coffee I was drinking. A taste that embittered my soul ever since.”
Hava L. Holzhauer, director for one of the event’s several co-sponsoring organizations, the Anti-Defamation League’s Florida regional office located in Boca Raton, noted: “Every year that passes without justice served for the deadliest terror attack perpetrated against the Jewish community in Argentina only reinforces the message to the perpetrators and like-minded haters that they can act without impunity. We will continue to remember the 85 fallen victims of this tragedy.”
Revital Malca, the deputy consul general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, mentioned the recent wave of terrorist attacks to the audience and said that all of them have one common denominator: “hate and lack of tolerance.”
“All of us have powerful weapons – our words and our actions,” Malca advised the audience on countering this hate. “We as representatives of the State of Israel ask you to speak up and to act. Help us to tell the world the truth and not to give in to hateful messages. We must fight a rising tide of anti-Semitism and incitement.”
Robert Rabil, a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University, was the featured speaker for the evening. Rabil spoke about the radical Islamic threat and said that although there are good Muslims, he warned the audience about the radical extremists’ ideology and stressed the attendees not to be indifferent.
This article was published by Sun-Sentinel and may be found here.