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  Parents of Slain Teen Want Vengeance

By Jack Katzenell
Associated Press Writer
Monday, Nov. 5, 2001; 2:23 p.m. EST

BETAR ILLIT, West Bank –– Shoshana Ben-Yishai was in New York on Sept. 11, visiting her sick grandfather, when terror struck the United States.

The U.S.-born 16-year-old returned safely to her home in a West Bank Jewish settlement, only to be killed by a Palestinian gunman on her way home from school.

As her family mourned Monday, they said they had arrived at a grim conclusion: Israel must ignore American pleas for restraint against the Palestinians.

"We will not allow the gentiles to dictate how we should defend ourselves," said her father, Yitzhak Ben-Yishai. "The Torah says when someone rises up to kill you, kill him first."

Shoshana and 14-year-old boy were killed Sunday when a Palestinian militant sprayed automatic gunfire at the bus they were riding in a disputed section of Jerusalem. The assailant, a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, was killed by police and a settler at the scene.

Shoshana was buried late Sunday, and her family on Monday began the traditional Jewish seven-day mourning period, surrounded by friends and relatives in their home in the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Betar Illit.

The Ben-Yishai family moved to Israel from the Queens borough of New York City in 1989. Shoshana, known to everyone by her nickname, Shoshi, was 5 years old then.

Her family now lives in a modest, four-room apartment on a street with pictures of famous rabbis pasted to the lampposts. Shoshana's father, Yitzhak, works for a publisher of Jewish holy books. Her mother, Miriam, works in a hospital. They have five other children.

On Monday, Yitzhak sat on pillows on the floor of his home, his shirt torn in accordance with Jewish mourning customs. Black-clad Jews sat around him on chairs listening as he talked bitterly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, frequently quoting the scriptures and the Jewish sages.

Yitzhak accused the Bush administration of not doing more to stop what he said was terrorism against Jews. He said he had contacted the U.S. consul and a U.S. congressman in the hope of arranging a meeting with President Bush.

"With God's help I will tell the president that from now on Jewish blood cannot be shed with impunity. Let it no longer be said that terrorism against Jews is legitimate," he said.

Many Israelis believe the Bush administration is encouraging Palestinian attacks by aiming its anti-terror campaign against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network while criticizing steps Israel takes against Palestinian violence.

On Monday, the front pages of Israeli newspapers ran pictures of dark-haired, smiling Shoshana. Students and teachers told of a girl who loved school and her friends.

"She always tried to help so that the other students would feel good, would smile," teacher Naama Toren told Israel Radio. "The girls in her class saw her as someone to emulate."

On the door and walls of the small room Shoshana shared with her two sisters were pictures of Israeli landscapes and right wing slogans. "The Land of Israel for the People of Israel," read one, a reference to the claim that West Bank belongs to Jews and not the Palestinians.

"Prosecute Oslo Criminals," read another – a reference to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other architects of the interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Miriam Ben-Yishai said her daughter's killer deliberately chose the hour when children were returning home from school to attack.

"He didn't attack soldiers," she said, as she sat with women in a separate room of the house to mourn.

She said she has no intention of returning to New York, where her ailing father lives in Westchester County, in spite of the tragedy.

"It could have happened there too," she said.

Yitzhak blames his daughter's death on both the Palestinians and on the U.S.-backed dovish Israeli politicians who signed the Oslo agreement. He said it is time for Israelis to defend themselves.

"We should not have to weep for our children after they have been murdered," he said.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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