The AMIA (“Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina”) was not just a “Community Center” as the Jewish media in America described it initially, but indeed the Center of the Jewish Community. The AMIA building housed the DAIA (Argentinean equivalent of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs), the Va'ad Hachinuch (Board of Jewish Education), the Chief Rabbinate of Argentina, the Administration of Jewish Cemeteries, a Jewish Theater, an archive of Jewish books which included such irreplaceable items as a Maimonides manuscript, the headquarters for the Argentinean United Jewish Appeal and the headquarters for the Jewish Social Services (equivalent of Jewish Family Services). The AMIA itself had a Department of Culture, a Youth Department, an Israel Information Center and a Data Processing center which provided support for many Jewish organizations. The OSA (Argentinean Zionist Organization) held their Board meetings at the AMIA Building as did the Board of the Argentinean Association of Jewish Communal Workers on which I served for several years before leaving Argentina.
The initial days were for me full of anxiety as the stories of each of my friends began to surface. Jorge, who headed the Youth Department of AMIA, was that day having a meeting a block away in a popular Cafe.
Abraham, the head of the Va'ad Hakehilot, heard the explosion and came out to see what happened. As he looked outside his office, he saw the building beginning to collapse from the front. He rapidly ran to the back and jumped through the window of the third floor into the cement patio. He broke his legs, but survived.
Norma, who worked at the Social Services office in the ground floor, was seeing a client. She spent 48 hours under the ruins of the building. She was taken to a Hospital, and required rebuilding of her jaw. Her time under the ruins forced her to breath toxic fumes for 48 hours...that would eventually kill her years later after a debilitating chronic condition. Her son, who worked at the data processing center on the second floor was not that lucky...he died in the explosion.
There were more stories, but these were the first ones I heard. Eighty Five people died and over 200 were wounded. My father, whose office was a couple of miles away from the building, heard the explosion.
But all that was just the beginning of the indignities. The investigation of the attack, which was fraught with irregularities from the very beginning, slowly uncovered a story of local conspiracy with Iranian operatives with Hezbollah support. It made public the concern over the Triple Frontier (the place where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) and how that area has become a training ground for terrorists. It uncovered participation of government officials close to the Argentinean President and also how bribery, nepotism and corruption all played their role. But nobody was brought to Justice.
Today, nineteen years after the attack which shattered so many lives, one of the Iranian citizens implicated in the attack, Hassan Rouhani, is the President-elect of Iran and scheduled to replace Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on August 3rd; Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner is publicly promoting a policy of alliance with Iran; Argentina approved a treaty that all but clear all prior charges against Iranian citizens (including those responsible for the AMIA building) and the Argentinean Foreign Ministry is preventing Alberto Nisman, an Argentinean anti terrorist investigator who participated in the AMIA investigation, from testifying in front of a US Senate committee in Washington.
In the meantime, eighty five lives were truncated nineteen years ago and their memories are still demanding justice...