Israeli killed in Berlin had turned to embassy for help

Victim in beating death identified as Yosi Damari, 22; Israeli mission says he was a tourist and family had agreed to send him money for plane ticket

Police investigate near the Franciscan Monastery in Berlin on April 5, 2015, where the body of Israeli Yosi Damari was found. (AFP/DPA/Maurizio Gambarini)
Police investigate near the Franciscan Monastery in Berlin on April 5, 2015, where the body of Israeli Yosi Damari was found. (AFP/DPA/Maurizio Gambarini)

An Israeli man who was killed in Berlin over the weekend was a tourist who sought help because he was short of funds for a flight, the embassy said Thursday.

The man, identified by police Thursday as 22-year-old Yosi Damari, was found by passersby early Sunday beaten beyond recognition in the ruins of a Gothic church.

“The dead man had visited the Israeli embassy on Good Friday (April 3) and we helped him with a few matters,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

She said he asked for his family in Israel to be contacted so they could help him buy a plane ticket.

Consul Eyal Saso told Israel’s Channel 2 news that the embassy had contacted Damari’s family and they agreed to fly him back.

Yosi Damari's passport photo. (photo credit: Courtesy Germany police)
Yosi Damari’s passport photo. (photo credit: Courtesy Germany police)

Saso said the embassy sent Damari a list of places he could stay and that he had spent the first night of Passover at the city’s Chabad house.

A police spokesperson said officials used DNA evidence and a passport found on the body to confirm the identity of Damari.

German officials say the area where Damari was found, near Berlin’s City Hall, is a known drug haven, but are not ruling out that the killing could have been a hate crime.

“We’re investigating all directions,” a police spokesman said, according to German paper Berliner Zeitung.

“We have no information about a motive. Our consul general is in close contact with the Berlin police and our staff is also in contact with his relatives in Israel,” an embassy spokeswoman said in an email.

Police have opened a murder investigation into the case after Damari was found in the ruins of the 14th century Church of the Franciscan Monastery, which was destroyed during World War II.

The site is near City Hall and Alexanderplatz, which has seen an increase in violent crime in recent years including two high-profile killings of young men.

Police said that Damari is believed to have “incurred massive injuries that led to his death” between 5 and 9 pm on Saturday and was in the capital as a tourist “at least since Friday.”

“The place the body was found is also the scene of the crime,” it added, renewing a call for witnesses to come forward.

Damari had approached the Jewish community last week asking for food and a place to sleep, a rabbi said Wednesday.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal described him as a “man in his early 20s who came to us during the day last Friday and didn’t have a place to sleep and didn’t have anything to eat.”

Teichtal, who is a community rabbi in Berlin and also the head of the Chabad Jewish Education Center in the city, said a fellow rabbi arranged a place for Damari to sleep at a community center near Alexanderplatz — less than a kilometer from where he was found Sunday morning.

“We arranged everything for him, but then he didn’t show up again,” Teichtal said.

Three people have come forward with information in the case, police said Wednesday, without providing further details.

In recent months, police have stepped up patrols around Alexanderplatz in an attempt to crack down on violent crime.

Despite Germany’s past as home of the Nazis who organized the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews, Berlin has become a popular destination for Israeli tourists.

Some 20,000 to 30,000 Israelis, mostly young people, have moved to Berlin in recent years.

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