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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Weston teen killed in suicide bombing mourned at service, burial

By JENNIFER KAY
Associated Press Writer

More than 700 people gathered Tuesday to remember a teenager who died of his wounds nearly a month after a suicide bombing in Israel.

The body of Daniel Wultz, 16, arrived in Florida early Tuesday, a day after a memorial ceremony in Jerusalem, where his family said he always hoped to live.

Wultz had been visiting relatives in Israel on Passover. He was having lunch with his father at a Tel Aviv restaurant April 17 when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated about 10 pounds of explosives in the entrance. Ten other people were killed in the attack, including the suicide bomber. Wultz's father, Tuly, survived.

During the memorial service in Weston, people packed into the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue, while others stood outside in the rain wiping away tears as speakers broadcast the eulogies from inside the temple.

His family and friends remembered a devout, outgoing teenager who had his rabbi on speed dial. Tuly Wultz cried as he recounted how his son was wounded.

"Daniel, a father supposed to protect and guard the child. This time it was the other way around, because of you I can stand here and deliver this eulogy," he said. "You stopped most of the shrapnel with your beautiful body. I am so sorry baby. I didn't mean it to happen."

The teenager arrived at a Tel Aviv hospital in critical condition, with wounds to his abdomen and a leg. He opened his eyes about two weeks ago, but his condition deteriorated in recent days after he contracted an infection and was hooked up to a life support system, hospital officials said. Daniel Wultz died Sunday.

Daniel's mother, Sheryl Wultz, and his sister Amanda remembered a happy teenager who liked playing basketball and volunteering with disabled children.

"When he got to Israel he said it felt good to be home. He truly loved being Jewish. He was proud to be Jewish and Israel is the embodiment of his religion," Sheryl Wultz said.

Rabbi Yisroel Spalter of Weston said the teenager will forever be remembered as the "Holy Daniel" who died for his faith. Spalter said he would miss Daniel's telephone calls with questions about his faith.

"His last words to the doctors were 'I want to live.' It's up to us to see to it that he lives," Spalter said.

Israel's consul general in Miami attended the service and delivered a message to Daniel.

"Dear Daniel, I want to tell you the same day you died, the Israeli defense forces acted against the wicked man who sent the suicide bomber," Dr. Yitschak Ben Gad said. "That wicked man won't plan the bombing of anyone, anymore. He is dead."

After the memorial service, mourners watched as Tuly Wultz, who is still walking with a cane, led mourners behind the closed casket, which had the American flag folded on top of it. Sheriff's deputies closed a highway for the 100-car motorcade to Beth David Memorial Garden in Hollywood, where the teen was buried.

Dirt from Israel was placed in the grave.

"Daniel has the merit to be a holy martyr of Israel ... Daniel goes straight to heaven," Spalter said during the burial ceremony.

A moment of silence was held in Wultz's memory before Game 5 of the Miami-New Jersey NBA playoff game Tuesday night. Many people in the arena applauded when his photo was shown on the large video screen over the court.

"Basketball was his passion," read Heat public address announcer Mike Baiamonte. "He was a big Miami Heat fan. The Miami Heat sends its condolences to the Wultz family."

Later, at an evening news conference, his father displayed a torn, bloodstained shirt Daniel was wearing the day of the bombing.

According to the U.S. Embassy, more than 200 American citizens have been killed or wounded in terrorist attacks in Israel since 1992.

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AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

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