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First Person for One Family in Jerusalem, Terror Bombing Strikes Too Close to Home

September 11, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Tuesday night’s terror struck close to home.

The sound of the blast at Cafe Hillel, on Emek Refaim Street, shook the windows of our house and left no doubt about what had happened — again.

The moment the terrorists struck, our son Yossi was on the phone with his brother Momo, asking when Momo would be back so they could watch another episode on DVD of “24,” an American television series about terrorism.

Momo was crossing Emek Refaim Street, which is two blocks from our house, and they both heard the blast. Momo, 16, a trained paramedic with Magen David Adom, took out the plastic gloves he keeps in his school bag and began to run to the cafe to help with the injured.

Yossi ran out the door with my wife Jane to go get Momo. Momo was one of the first to arrive at the scene.

As he described it later, it was a scene straight out of Dante’s “Inferno.” Victims were screaming and strewn about on the ground. A group of bystanders was attempting to extinguish the fire on a man who was aflame. Dismembered legs and arms were lying in pools of blood. A man’s head lay in the middle of the street.

My son acted according to the training he received this summer, in a course designed to teach him how to handle exactly these sorts of events. As soon as the lead ambulance arrived, he was told whom to evacuate and he helped carry the injured on stretchers.

It was all over within ten minutes. The amazing Israeli emergency medical teams again had acted with alacrity and professionalism. By the time Jane and Yossi finally reached Momo, they found him covered with victims’ blood, ready to go home.

I made my way home from the office shortly after hearing of the blast, and I was met by a scene a father can never forget: a son’s clothes splattered with the blood of terrorism.

I was caught between the relief of seeing him uninjured, and the pain, outrage and grief at an attack that had struck so close to home.

After Momo showered, we sat together and watched on television the surreal scenes of our beautiful neighborhood turned into a scene of horror, hurt and bloodshed. We watched the scenes of jubilation in Gaza, as thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in spontaneous celebration, delirious with joy at the “quality” of the attacks.

Sheik Ahmed Yassin and others praised the “bravery” of the suicide bombers and broadcast their glee at the attacks. Yassin mentioned the “great” Ismail Abu Shanab, the engineer of dozens of Israeli deaths who was killed in an Israeli strike on Aug. 21. Yassin said Abu Shanab’s death was now avenged.

I was struck by the contrast between our society and theirs. Our heroes were out on Emek Refaim fighting to save lives, practicing emergency medicine, collecting bone fragments of casualties for burial.

Their heroes were sowing death and destruction. Their engineering was the science of terror.

Wednesday morning, as the bright Jerusalem sunshine shined again on our neighborhood, most of the obvious signs of the previous night’s destruction had been washed away and cleaned up.

Despite the ongoing terrorism alerts and the torrent of news about the previous day’s twin suicide attacks, our children needed to go to school and we needed to get on with our lives.

But it is hard. It is hard especially when one wakes up to hear about the people who, faceless casualties the night before, now are identified as fathers, daughters, loved ones.

Among the dead the following morning was a father and daughter who had been having their last cup of coffee together before the daughter’s wedding. The doctor, Dr. David Applebaum, was my best friend’s partner.

David’s daughter Nava was due to be married the following day at a 500-person wedding. David was a doctor of emergency medicine who was a fixture in Jerusalem’s medical scene, having treated hundreds of terrorism victims. He was the founder of Terem, Jerusalem’s private emergency medical clinic. David was a learned man, a kind man, a tzadik. He was a true hero of Jerusalem.

I let Momo sleep in Wednesday morning. His teacher called from school just to say that he had heard from Momo’s friends that Moma had had a “tough night” and was among the first on the scene of the bombing. He suggested that after we attended the Applebaum funerals that I take Momo to school so he could be with his friends again.

We lost some heroes in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, but some — like my son — were saved.

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