Alisa Flatow’s death at the hands of Islamic Jihad terrorists has stunned the predominantly Jewish campus of Brandeis University.
At a school where scores of students spend each semester studying in Israel, the Brandeis student body of 4,000 was struggling this week to come to grips with the death of one of its own.
Flatow, a junior at the school, died Monday from injuries suffered during a terrorist attack on her bus in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. She was one of eight victims to die in the attack.
Flatow, of West Orange, N.J., was spending a semester studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
As news of the attack spread on campus Sunday, a somber mood fell over the students.
Many of her classmates related strongly to the incident because they share in Alisa’s strong connection to Israel. For many who were close to her, it was a day of mourning, fraught with pain and loss.
“This horrible tragedy caused deep anger, resentment and sadness,” said Karen Deicas, a senior who spent last year studying in Israel.
For students who recently studied in Israel, pictures of Alisa’s father boarding a plane to sit by her beside “hit home quite hard,” one student said.
“We could picture our own parents getting on a plane to go 12 hours to see their critically injured child,” this student said.
Some members of the Brandeis community expressed anger and bitterness at the attack.
” `The worst crime of all is moral cowardice,’ ” Professor Robert Szulkin, quoting from an old Russian novel, told his students during an informal class session Monday. Instead of his planned lecture, Szulkin and his students discussed Flatow’s death.
“This,” he said, “was a cowardly, cowardly act.”
Like many American Jews and Israelis, Brandeis students were exceptionally critical of the peace process in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.
These terrorists are not the ” `enemies of peace,’ as the politicians claim,” said Todd Harkavy, a graduate student.
“They are enemies of the Jews. They killed the Jews, not peace,” he said.
For many students, Alisa’s death not only hit close to home but awakened their sense of loyalty to Israel.
“Why should a friend have to die in order for us to want to take action?” said senior Yaffa Landis.
Many students sounded a pessimistic tone that peace is long dead in that part of the world.
Although the tragic terrorist attack has instilled some fear among Alisa’s peers, many pledged that this tragedy would not prevent them from returning to Israel or temper their support for the Jewish state.
“It is, of course, nothing new in the history of Israel, in the history of Zionism,” said Jehuda Reinharz, newly installed president of Brandeis and a native Israeli. “But every time it happens it steels the resolve of the Jewish people and of Israel.”
Reinharz also said such events should not deter students from studying abroad.
“She knew what the risks were, yet she was resolved to go and study” in Israel, he said.
As students prepared to return home for Passover, they carried Flatow’s memory with them.
“She will not be forgotten,” said student Avi Greene.