lipaz himi 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 1)
In a dank, dark corner of the Beit Shemesh market, where the roads are unpaved and a commercial building on pillars blocks out the sun, a wrought iron staircase leads to the abandoned, locked apartment where police found the body of Lipaz Himi, eight, lying on a mattress Wednesday night.
"She went out to play with all the other kids for Independence Day and never came back," a policeman and neighbor of the Himi family said.
In front of the apartment building where the Himi family lives, just a stone's throw from the market, neighbors and friends gathered on Thursday, stunned at the murder of a girl they knew for years.
"My son called me this morning and told me that the police had found a young girl's body in the marketplace," the policeman's mother, also a neighbor, told The Jerusalem Post. "I was in shock when I found out it was the girl from the Himi family. I've known her since she was a baby."
"She was a lovely girl, skinny as a bird. Whoever it was probably killed her in seconds," lamented another neighbor, who lives upstairs from the family.
Lipaz was one of five children. As his father spoke with television camera crews, her twin brother kicked a pinecone in the courtyard, refusing the entreaties of his neighbors to sit with them. His mother, a group of people said, was deeply distressed.
"Only a monster could do something like this to an eight-year-old girl," Lipaz's father told media gathered outside his home on Rehov Herzl. "I hope they catch the murderer or murderers and make them pay for what they did. She was such a happy, lovely girl, so full of life."
Five Palestinian workers were arrested shortly after the girl's body was found, and initial reports indicated she had been strangled.
He explained that most of the neighbors were older people and that Himi's friends lived a few minutes' walk away. It was very common for her to visit them, he said. To get there, Himi had to walk through the marketplace.
She was a familiar face to many of the vendors, one of whom told the Post that he often saw her and her brothers riding their scooters.
Despite the gruesome discovery just hours beforehand, the market was bustling with business on Thursday afternoon.
"They found the body up there," said one vendor whose clothing stall is directly below the staircase. "I arrived here at 3:30 this morning and the police were checking the scene; they told me I would have to wait to set up my stall."
Despite the apparent normalcy, area residents said they could not believe that such a horrible crime had taken place on their doorstep.
"Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day, children were running around in the park just around the corner," Sima Yosef said, holding tightly to the hand of her three-year-old. "It is really scary, I will definitely think twice about letting my children go out on their own in future."
"I am very scared," agreed Gila Edri, another mother of three who has lived close to the market for the last 10 years. "I can't believe this has come to Beit Shemesh. It has always been such a quiet neighborhood, no murders or rapes here. From now on I won't let my boys go out on their own. Today it is someone else's kid; tomorrow it could be mine."
Edri said it is not uncommon for Palestinian workers to sleep in the marketplace. "I have seen them with my own eyes," she said. "Every so often the police come, round them up and take them away."
The vendor, who has worked in the market for 18 years, confirmed that he often sees Palestinian laborers sleeping in the market.