The bombing victims

Lod resident Binyamin Hafuta prevented an even larger tragedy by absorbing the explosion with his body.

pigua in TA, april 17 29 (photo credit: AP [file])
pigua in TA, april 17 29
(photo credit: AP [file])
Luck did not visit Victor Erez twice. The 60-year old cab driver had miraculously been spared death as a young soldier when he survived an explosion at the Erez Crossing at the Gaza border right before the Six Day War. To thank God for saving him and because he believed it would bring him luck, he changed his last name from Hajaje to Erez, his older brother Banjo told The Jerusalem Post. But Victor did not fare as well when caught in Monday's suicide bombing at the Rosh Ha'ir felafel and shwarma restaurant near the old bus station in Tel Aviv. He was among the nine killed in the blast, seven of whom were buried on Tuesday. Sitting on a stone wall following Erez's funeral at the Yarkon Cemetery outside Tel Aviv, Hajaje wore a white kippa and a torn blouse. He rubbed his hand across his knee as he spoke of a brother who did everything for his family. "I brought him up," said Hajaje, who explained that the family had immigrated from Libya in 1948. "I lost the thing that was most precious to me," said Hajaje. "After he was wounded in the leg during the first bombing, he slept in my room," recalled Hajaje. When the wound did not heal, the bottom of his leg had to be amputated, he said, adding that the loss of the leg didn't stop his brother from working as a cab driver for 39 years. Hajaje explained that it was the second time this year that he had lost one of his seven siblings. His youngest brother died of an illness 10 months ago. On Monday, shortly after the blast, some relatives had come to visit, and he called Erez to come join them at his house. That's when Erez's wife Miri told him, "Victor was in the attack." Hajaje said that until the last moment, when they found his body at the L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir, he had hoped for the best. Erez, who was a father of four, was expecting his sixth grandchild. Hajaje recalled how he and his brother had spent time together two weeks earlier at the brit of Erez's fifth grandchild. "He was the tzandak (godfather). He blessed everyone. We sat and we celebrated," Hajaje said. Hundreds of mourners also said good-bye to Philip Belachson, 45, a father of four, who was buried in his home city of Ashdod. He had gone to Tel Aviv on Monday with his two younger sons, Linor 15, and Uri, 12, to buy CDs and computer games. Uri told Ynet that when they heard the blast, his father immediately covered him and his brother with his body. "He told me, 'Take the phone, call your mother and tell her there was an attack." Then he fainted. A piece of shrapnel had entered his heart. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His daughter Lital, 19, said that her father had wanted her to come along as well, but she decided not to. "He was the best person in the world," she said. "As he fell on the floor he told my brothers not to worry, I am in pain but don't worry," she added. "I had the best father in the world - he was pure, and had never done anything bad to anyone," she said. "Even in his death he protected his children by absorbing the shrapnel." Mourners also gathered in the Holon Cemetery to pay their final respects to David Shaulov, 29, a dental technician who had immigrated in 1990 from Uzbekistan. His wife Varda, who is nine months pregnant with their third child, had gone that morning to Ichilov Hospital because she feared she was experiencing labor pains. In Lod, friends and family laid to rest Binyamin Hafuta, 47, an immigrant from Morocco, who had worked as a security guard in the restaurant for the last three months. His metal detector went off while he checked the terrorist's bag prompting the bomber to detonate the bomb. Hafuta's body absorbed a large portion of the blast, thereby preventing even greater damage. His older sister, Rachel Cohen, told Ynet she had asked him if he wasn't afraid to work there, since it had already been the target of a suicide bombing. Her brother dismissed her fears. "Why would a bomber want to target the same place twice," he asked. His sister-in-law, Suzi, said that after hearing that Hafuta protected others from the blast with his body, she understood that "even in his death he cared for everyone." She added that he was eagerly anticipating the post-Pessah ritual of Mimouna. A friend of his described Binyamin as trustworthy, happy and full of life, and added that he would be sorely missed. Hours before the holiday, Marcelle Cohen, 73, of France was buried in Jerusalem. She had come from her home city of Nice to spend the holiday with her youngest son, Menahem Cohen, and his 11 grandchildren. Ariel Darchi, 31, of Bat Yam, was buried in the Yarkon Cemetery. A small gathering of friends and family members walked seven times around his flag-draped body. Buda Pirushka, 50, and Rosalia Basnia, 48, foreign workers from Romania, were expected to be returned to their home country for burial.