Some 200 hundred Argentinean youths gathered in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, in a ceremony organized by Birthright Israel.
“I hope that next year we will just be remembering, and no longer asking for justice,” Jorge Zak, executive director of Birthright Israel in Argentina, said in a speech to the Birthright participants.
Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds were wounded in the 1994 attack, but to this day the investigation remains incomplete. Although Argentina has a list of Iranians it believes were behind the bombing, none have been prosecuted. The attack was the deadliest bombing Argentina ever saw and came two years after the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.
Zak used to work at the AMIA center but had been on vacation when the attack occurred.
He lost many friends in the attack.
“It’s not that they don’t know who was responsible. It’s known that it was perpetrated by the hand of Hezbollah, of Iran and the hand of local collaborators,” Zak said.
Gabriel Jorquera, deputy head of Argentina’s Embassy in Israel, said that both the AMIA bombing and the attack on the Israeli Embassy are etched in Argentinean history and expressed hope that the investigation would soon reach a conclusion.
He also emphasized the government’s commitment to fighting antisemitism, noting the importance of the country’s Jewish community, which numbers some 230,000 – the largest in Latin America.
Gidi Mark, CEO of Birthright Israel also addressed the audience, stressing that the AMIA bombing was an attack against the entire Jewish world, as well as against Argentina and every person in the world who seeks peace. “Today, 23 years later, we are still with you,” he said.
The terrorists try to prevent hope for peace. The only response is to unite to build a better world,” he said. He added that just as the Jews have an obligation every year to remember the story of the Exodus, so too do they have a duty to remember the attack on the AMIA center.
A group of the Birthright participants performed the song “La Memoria” by Argentinean singer Leon Gieco – which pays tribute to the victims of the AMIA and embassy attacks – followed by the Israeli “A Song for Peace.” Each participant had written a personal message on paper cut-outs of silhouettes, which they placed underneath yahrzeit candles which were lit in memory of the victims.
Andrea Papaianni, 26, of Buenos Aires, wrote a message of hope for justice and memory.
“It is disappointing that 23 years later there is still no resolution,” she told The Jerusalem Post
Prosecution has been difficult, in part because of the pro-Iranian leanings of the past government, led by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who left office in December 2015.
In January 2015, the prosecutor in charge of the AMIA investigation, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his home. He had filed a 300-page complaint alleging that Kirchner and others in the government tried to cover up the Iranian connection. Both murder and suicide have been suspected.
The new president, Mauricio Macri, has distanced the country from Iran, repealing a memorandum of understanding between the two governments that had been set in place by Kirchner.
Macri’s government has also been more positive toward Israel, a point emphasized by Jorquera, who spoke of “excellent bilateral relations” between the two countries.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.