Hundreds of people on Friday packed into the Tel Aviv bar at the center of a deadly shooting attack two weeks ago, which claimed the lives of manager Alon Bakal and patron Shimon Ruimi. A third man, cabbie Amin Shaaban, was killed by the same gunman as he made his escape.
Mayor Ron Huldai was among those supping a beer or two at Simta, as he declared that Tel Aviv had returned to normal, exactly two weeks after the attack and one week after the fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem was shot dead by police in his hometown of Arara in northern Israel.
“The owners of the Simta pub told me that Alon Bakal, who was murdered in the attack, had one catchphrase: ‘I love to live.’ They threw an event in that spirit today, it was emotional,” Huldai wrote on Facebook on Friday afternoon, urging people to join him.
Supporters from Tel Aviv and around the country sported headbands made of balloons, and the bar laid on a DJ and decorated the site with posters reading: “There is love in us, and it will win.”
“We held this event to prove that we cannot be defeated by terror,” Dor Avidan, one of Simta’s owners, told Walla news. “We thought that some 300 or 400 people would come, but now we are expecting thousands,” he said.
The Facebook page for the event showed that some 2,900 people had said they would be attending.
The 29-year-old gunman, an Arab Israeli whose father was a volunteer with the police, opened fire on the bar on New Year’s Day, killing 26-year-old bar manager Bakal and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi, who had been visiting the city from the southern town of Ofakim.
Milhem fled the scene of the shooting, hailing a cab, and later killing driver Shaaban, a father of 11 from Lod, as he escaped. An intensive manhunt for Milhem lasted exactly one week, before he was killed in a shootout with security forces as they traced him back to Arara.
His father, Mohammed, and brothers had repeatedly called on Milhem to give himself up. Mohammed Milhem had called the police when he recognized his son in CCTV footage of the attack, and gave his public defender permission to inform the authorities when they learned where he was hiding.
Several suspected accomplices, including relatives of Milhem, have been held by police. Two of them, also from Arara, were released to house arrest on Friday.