is not a joyful holiday for the family of Alona Avraham, who was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Since September 11, 2001, the family gets together a few days before the holiday for a memorial ceremony, but this year they are coping with even greater pain – the news that an Islamic community center
is to be built close to Ground Zero leaves them with no rest.
Alona, from Ashdod, was 30 years old when she went to visit her uncle who lives in the US, on one of her first trips abroad. On September 11, she boarded flight 175 at Boston's Logan International Airport to Los Angeles and died in the terror attack. Though her remains were returned to Israel
only seven years later, her family sat Shiva immediately upon receiving news of her death.
Now, nine years after the tragedy, they are doing all they can to prevent the building of the Islamic community center near the place Alona lost her life.
"I contacted the family of Haggai Sheffi, who was also killed in the disaster," said Alona's mother Miriam. "We intend to address the US government together about this. My position is clear – there shouldn't be any mosque there. It cannot happen. I don't understand this government, they invest millions into catching (Osama) Bin Laden but on the other hand they allow this mosque. It's like bringing a pig into a holy place."
Ground Zero. (Photo: AP)
She firmly rejects reports that the Islamic community center is intended to bring religions closer. "All that's just nonsense," she says.
The fight against the construction of the Islamic community center makes coping with her terrible loss even harder. "We are in a very difficult period," she says. "The memorial was last Thursday, and was even harder than in previous years. This holiday is tempered with grief, we're trying to recover, trying not to fall into the abyss. It's really difficult. Nine years have passed and it feels like it happened now. It's tangible all the time."
Tensions over the Islamic community center flared Saturday as demonstrations began shortly after family members of the victims recited loved one's names through tears at a somber ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the attacks.
After the ceremony, around 1,000 activists rallied about five blocks from the site of the attacks to support the proposed Islamic community center. Opponents gathered blocks away, with the two groups expected to converge near the mosque site.
Toting signs saying, "The attack on Islam is racism" and "Tea Party Bigots funded by corporate $," mosque supporters gathered near City Hall about an hour after a New York anniversary ceremony ended and planned to march closer to Ground Zero.
Just blocks away, demonstrators chanting "USA, USA" gathered to protest plans to build the Islamic center. Some carried signs, including messages like "Never forgive, never forget, no WTC mosque."
Holding a US flag and a copy of the bill of rights, one demonstrator explained, "Not all Muslims are extremists, but all extremists are Muslims.
AP also contributed to this report