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Suicide bomber disquised as orthodox Jewish hitchhiker kills four Israelis in car who prevented terrorist from entering community

April 2, 2006

Kedumim victims prevented disaster

Tovah Lazaroff, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 2, 2006

The exact details of the short car ride from Karnei Shomron to Kedumim late Thursday night, with the suicide bomber in the back seat, will never be known.

But those in the settlement of Kedumim who knew the car's driver, Rafi Halevy, 63, and his wife Helena, 58, believe the couple died heroically by preventing a major suicide bombing within the community itself.

Helena's best friend, Miriam Tartner, told The Jerusalem Post that witnesses on the road outside the community saw the car swerve erratically just before it reached Kedumim.

It then came to a sudden stop, as if the driver had jammed on the breaks, said Tartner. She said she thought that during the few minutes that passed since they picked up three hitchhikers at the Karnei Shomron bus stop, including the terrorist, who was dressed as a haredi, they realized they had a suicide bomber in their car.

"Helena had the instincts of a cat," said Tartner. "I believe that Rafi and Helena spoke with the hitchhiker. When he answered with an Arab accent, they knew and tried to get him out of the car. When they couldn't, they stopped altogether," she said.

In the two days since, she said, members of the community have tried to piece together details of the blast.

They have learned, she said, that a bystander at the bus stop in Karnei Shomron thought that the bomber looked suspicious and summoned security services, but that they arrived too late.

Another witness, Narkis Ya'ari, said she had also seen the bomber at the bus stop, as well as the two other people who subsequently got a ride from the Halevys, Shaked Lisker, 16, and Re'ut Feldman, 20.

"They stood there, the three of them, the boy, the girl and the bomber. He looked like a yeshiva student. When the car stopped, they ran to it. I ran also. They were quicker," she said.

Ya'ari said she thought it was odd that someone who was haredi would want to go to Kedumim. But she dismissed the thought, assuming that he wanted to go to the more haredi settlement of Emanuel, which was on the way to Karnei Shomron.

Tartner said she believed that when the bomber didn't get off at Emanuel, it aroused the suspicions of the people in the car.

Supporting this scenario, she said, was that Lisker had called his parents when he first got in the car to tell them he had caught a ride and would soon be home. He then tried to send them an SMS text message when the car was only one kilometer away from the settlement, said Tartner. That message never got through, said Tartner. She and others learned about it from the phone company, she said.

Tartner said that on the night of the attack she was at a wedding. At first she heard an inaccurate report, that a car with four terrorists had exploded. "We danced and we sang because we thought disaster had been averted," she said.

An hour later, her husband took her away from the festivities.

"He had a horrible look on his face. He said, 'It's Rafi and Helena.'"

Their names were always said together like that, she said. They were so close, they were almost seen as one person, she said. "They were always spoken of together."

The Halevys first met when Helena was 18 and had come from Brazil to spend a year on a kibbutz. She knew right away that she had met the love of her life, said Tartner. "She wrote her parents and said, 'I'm not coming home.'" They looked like opposites; she was blonde and South American, said Tarner. He was dark and a seventh-generation Israeli from Safed. They had four children. They moved to Kedumim more than 16 years ago. Rafi was in charge of security in the settlement until recently and Helena ran an after-school program for children in grades one through eight.

"She worried about them as a mother would," said Tartner. She was the kind of person who baked the best cakes and bought the best presents. She was full of life and their home was always open to guests. They often had people over on Shabbat who had no other place to go, said Tartner.

They both loved to garden, and theirs was filled with flowers and fruit trees, she said. Rafi worked in agriculture of late, and could be seen riding his tractor in the mornings, said Tartner.

According to the Ynet Web site, Rafi helped care for the olive trees around the settlement, which belonged to both Kedumim and neighboring Palestinian villages. He helped make sure that Palestinians had access to their trees, she said.

According to Ynet, their oldest son, Oded, headed an intelligence unit in the south that gathered intelligence on terrorists.

Tartner said, "It seems normal that they died together. I don't think they would have survived without the other. They were that close," she said.

The couple will be buried at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in Kedumim.

Funerals were held on Friday for Feldman and Lisker. Feldman was buried in her hometown of Herzliya. As part of her National Service, she was working with the security services in Kedumim. She was a medic and also volunteered with emotionally ill people. A passionate believer in the importance of holding onto the territories, she stood with protesters both in Amona and in Gush Katif.

Feldman's aunt, who did not want her name use, said Feldman was in one of the nine homes demolished by the police in Amona on February 1. She "withstood the beating of the police" because she believed in the Land of Israel, said the aunt. "She said she would be willing to die for her country."

Lisker was on his way home Kedumim after staying late for an after school activity in Karnei Shomron. He had just celebrated his 16th birthday. His family called to check on him when they heard about the attack, but there was no response.

Late Thursday night, his family gave DNA samples to be used to identity his remains. By early Friday afternoon, he was confirmed as the fourth victim of the bombing. He was buried within hours in Kedumim.

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