Family of Mexican at tail end of aliya process incensed by Nat'l Insurance Institute's decision not to recognize her as Israeli.
By TOVAH LAZAROFFPublished: DECEMBER 3, 2008 00:56Advertisement
Only a few possessions of Mumbai terror victim Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 50, survived last week's attack and were brought to Israel along with her body.
They included a faded-green knapsack and a Mexican passport that noted her new status as an Israeli immigrant. Had she not been killed in the Mumbai terrorist attack last week, Norma would have arrived in Israel on Monday to make aliya.
On Tuesday before she was laid to rest at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, her relatives showed the passport to the media to emphasize their contention that the family should be given the same benefits as those allocated to the relatives of Israeli terror victims. It is a claim that has been denied by the National Insurance Institute, because Norma never landed in Israel to complete her immigration process.
Clutching her mother's knapsack, her daughter Jean Goldy Shvarzblat Rabinovich, 24, broke into tears as she spoke with The Jerusalem Post of her anger and frustration with the NII.
"It surprised me and it offended me and it is wrong," said Jean Goldy, who made aliya four years ago from Mexico.
"It is such stupid bureaucracy," she said, adding that it has changed her entire view of Israel. "The country that I thought I came to is not the country that I think that I am in right now."
At the time of the attack, Jean Goldy was studying Japanese in Japan as an exchange student. On her way back to Israel for the funeral, she went through various security systems, which triggered her emotions about terror, Israel and her mother's death.
"I started thinking, you can not even bring a bottle of water onto the plane. Everyone is so afraid, you have to pass all these metal detectors, all of this fear is all over the place. I felt angry and violent and I felt dirty," she said.
She thought that terrorists should not be able to hijack the world in this way.
"This world should not belong to them. It should not belong to fear and to the people who want to make us afraid by bombs or guns. It should belong to people who can build and create, that is what this country should be about."
Jean Goldy said that failing to recognize her mother's rights as a citizen of a country that she had so much hoped to live in was the same as saying, "We are giving in to that fear."
"I do not want to live in a place like that," she said.
Her uncle Moshe, who came into Israel for the funeral from his home in Lakewood, New Jersey, told the Post that his sister Norma had gone to India because she believed that it would easier to make aliya from there.
The two siblings had been in contact from India by phone and e-mail, he said. She drew beautifully and she had sent him some pictures over the computer, he said.
Norma had gone to live in Mumbai's Chabad House while she waited to come to Israel because she felt very close to the Israeli couple which ran it, Rivka and Gavriel Holtzberg.
Sitting on a stone bench outside the funeral hall and wearing a black hat and suit, Moshe said he had spoken with his sister less than two weeks ago, when she called to wish him mazel tov after the wedding of one of his children.
Last Thursday morning, when he read about the Mumbai attack in The New York Times, he was immediately concerned because it mentioned the Chabad House. He immediately began calling officials in the Mexican and Israeli embassies, a task that was made difficult because they were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
As part of his search for his sister, he called Jean Goldy in Japan and asked her what she knew. But until she heard from him, she had not known about the attack at all.
"I was in the dorms in Japan studying Japanese and not paying attention," she said.
She sent an e-mail to the Jewish Agency's India desk, which had dealt with her mother's immigration file, and asked them what they knew.
They said that all the immigrants were accounted for and that her mother was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday.
She passed the e-mail along to her uncle. The error, she said, comforted her temporarily and allowed her one last night of normal sleep.
Not so for her uncle, who remained uneasy. Immediately after Shabbat, when he heard there was one remaining unidentified victim, he contacted the Zaka rescue and recovery organization, which told him the bitter news.
As Moshe stood over Norma's body in the eulogy hall at the cemetery and spoke of the sister that he loved, he broke into tears.
In front of him stood Norma's three children - Jean Goldy, Orly, 21, who had come for the funeral from Mexico, and Manuel, 18, who had also made made aliya and is a yeshiva student here.
His sister, he told the small gathering, was a woman of strong faith.
"She would tell me how she sees God every step of her life. 'God is always guiding me,' she used to say."
At times, she spoke about how she saw God's personal intervention in her life to the point where it became uncomfortable, he said.
"God opens the door wherever I go and stays with me,' she would tell him.
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