Mourners bid farewell to victim of bank shooting

Hundreds gather at Omer cemetery to bid farewell to Avner Cohen, the 40-year-old manager of the Bank Hapoalim branch in Beersheba.

Avner Cohen funeral (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Avner Cohen funeral
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Several hundred people gathered at the Omer cemetery on Tuesday night to bid farewell to Avner Cohen, the 40-year-old manager of the Bank Hapoalim branch in Beersheba who was gunned down along with three others inside the bank on Monday.
Cohen’s sister, Vered Sharabi said “this is like a bad dream, a terrible movie. Never in my worst dreams did I ever picture you’d die like this.”
Her voice steady as mourners burst into tears around her, she said of her brother, “I refuse to believe it’s true, that this is real – you were our angel, a jewel, I can’t believe that you’re gone.”
Or Cohen, Avner’s oldest son and his middle child Sagi, also spoke, with Sagi telling his father, “I promise you, we’ll be strong and we won’t break. I love you and I always will, you were the best dad in the world.”
Helping to lead the minha prayer service as the sun set over the Omer cemetery was Rabbi Avraham Yaghobian, who flew to Israel from the US the day before, when he heard that Avner had been killed. Yaghobian is the rabbi of Houston synagogue Torah Vehesed, where Cohen was an active member during the three years he lived and worked in Texas with his family.
When asked what Cohen meant to the community, Yaghobian said “he was like a tornado, he did everything, helped everyone.”
Yaghobian added that Avner was the kohen of the synagogue and he helped bring the congregation to where it is today, up from a small membership to over 150 people at every Shabbat service.
“I was in New Jersey to help officiate a wedding, and the second I heard about this I flew out – that’s how much he meant to me and the community, that’s the impression he made in the three years he was there.”
Three funerals were held in the capital of the Negev on Tuesday – Cohen was buried in the evening not long after Idan Sabari of Omer and Anat Even-Haim of Beersheba. Deputy bank manager Meir Zeitoun was laid to rest on Monday night.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of mourners came to the new cemetery outside the Neveh Ze’ev neighborhood where pregnant mother of three Anat Even-Haim was buried under a blazing afternoon sun.
As the mourners gathered to hear the eulogies, the crowd seethed in sorrow and fury, as a man screamed out, “What will I tell the kids?” repeatedly.
Anat’s mother Shoshi Biton broke down at the podium, asking, “How do you say goodbye to a daughter, a sister, a mother?” and vowing that while Anat never got to see her daughter’s bat mitzva, “I will raise your kids like they were my own.”
Her sister, Sima meanwhile, teared up and asked, “Who will call me now to come babysit?,” adding “I know it sounds like a cliché, but I’ll never forget you sister, never.”
Colleagues from her office also bid farewell, describing a young woman who always smiled around the office, to the extent that it puzzled her co-workers, including one named Shirly who remarked that “there wasn’t a single day that went by when you didn’t brighten up the office.”
Her boss, Yoel Shemer, described her as “the best secretary in the world, a woman who always wanted to help,” and then said “I’m sorry I was in milu'im [reserve duty] yesterday,” before breaking down in tears.
As the funeral procession made it’s way to the gravesite, a few members of the family were overcome by heat and emotion. While male loved ones shoveled dirt over the body, a woman cried out “Don’t go Anat,” while a calmer voice said, “Don’t worry Anat, the kids are okay, we’ll take care of the kids Anat.”