Families Mourn Loss

The Israeli community, joined by the city’s mayor and Jewish leaders, bade a grief-stricken farewell Sunday to a man and woman killed by an Egyptian-born gunman at Los Angeles International Airport July 4.

In the morning, more than 800 mourners filled the parking lot in front of Yad Avraham, a Sephardic congregation in North Hollywood, to hear Ya’akov Aminov eulogized as a man of rare kindness, generosity, honesty and devotion to his family and Judaism.

Facing the tallit-draped casket of the 46-year-old jewelry importer, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn mourned "the tragic loss that has left a void in the Los Angeles community and each of us."

Cries and sobs punctuated the eulogies by some 10 rabbis, who, speaking mainly in Hebrew, asked why such a good a man as "Reb Ya’acov," whose family roots are in Bukhara in Central Asia, had been murdered.

"How can it be," asked Rabbi Aron Tendler, "that this righteous man was taken, that a mother of five sits alone, that he will no longer make kiddush on Friday night?"

Tears flowed when Michael Shabtai, the friend whom Aminov, in a typical gesture, had offered to drive to the airport for a flight to Israel, recounted Aminov’s last moments.

Condolences were sent by President Bush and Gov. Gray Davis.

A long procession of cars accompanied Aminov’s casket to the same airport — and past the same El Al check-in counter where he was slain three days earlier — for the flight and burial in Israel.

In the afternoon, approximately 250 mourners crammed into the chapel at the Eden Memorial Park in Mission Hills, and even more listened outside during the funeral service for Victoria "Vicky" Hen, 25.

The attractive, cheerful Hen had been on the El Al job for only two months, greeting and assisting passengers flying business class.

"Vicky had a talent to take care of people and problems with a smile," said Michael Mayer, El Al general manager for North America. Flower-carrying El Al flight attendants, some weeping, stood outside the full chapel.

The daughter of a family whose roots in the historical Israeli city of Safed go back some 700 years, Hen was eulogized by Rabbi Samuel Ohana as a woman who sanctified God’s name by her presence and in joyfully fulfilling her duties.

As he did during the earlier services for Aminov, Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem called on U.S. Muslim leaders to condemn the killings by Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, an Egyptian immigrant. Addressing the Islamic community, Rotem demanded, "We must hear from you."

Hahn praised Hen as a person who brought joy into every life that touched hers, and one who stood for light against the forces of darkness.