Friday, August 01, 2014

In memoriam: the terrorist bombing at Hebrew University twelve years ago today

A photograph of Benjamin Blutstein, studying in the library at Pardes in Jerusalem.
Today is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra Cafeteria, on Mt. Scopus. I knew one of the victims, Benjamin Blutstein, who was the son of friends in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The bombing happened at the height of the Second Intifada. The murderers were part of a Hamas cell in East Jerusalem. According to an article published on August 1, 2002:
Hamas, which has carried out the largest number of Palestinian bombings, claimed responsibility for the bombing during a rally in Gaza City that drew some 10,000 supporters into the streets following evening prayers in the mosques.

"This operation today is a part of a series of operations we will launch from everywhere in Palestine," said a masked Hamas militant, dressed in a green military uniform.

At the request of the masked Hamas speaker, the entire crowd knelt to pray that future Hamas attacks "would succeed against the enemy of God."
Another article reported:
In claiming responsibility for the bombing, the Islamic militant group Hamas said it was revenge for the Israeli air raid last week in Gaza that killed the organization's military chief, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 civilians, including nine children.
Hamas celebrated after the attack:
"If they are going to attack our children, then they will have to expect to drink from the same poison," Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday in Gaza City, where hundreds of Hamas supporters poured into the streets late in the day to celebrate the university bombing and vow more attacks. 
Ben's parents, Dr. Richard Blutstein and Dr. Katherine Baker, are among the plaintiffs in a suit against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, "whom, the families say, financed and orchestrated the Hamas terrorist attack at Hebrew University." The suit was filed in 2004 and will be heard later this year.

Names of the victims (copied from the memorial page at the Hebrew University website).

Marla Bennett, 24, from San Diego, CA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of Berkeley at California in 2000. In 1998 she spent her junior year attending the Rothberg International School's One Year Program.

Benjamin Blutstein, 25, from Harrisburg, PA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. He earned a B.A. in religion and Judaic studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, in 2000. He was the president of Hillel at Dickinson College in 1998-1999. During the past year, Blutstein spent evenings playing in clubs as a disk jockey under the alias "Benny the B."

Dina Carter, 38, was employed at the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL) on the Edmond J. Safra Campus at Givat Ram as a librarian and archivist in the manuscripts department and archives. Born in North Carolina, she earned a BA from Duke University and an MSW degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dina immigrated to Israel in 1990.

Janis Ruth Coulter, 37, a native of Boston, MA, graduated in history and Judaic studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991. In 1996, she converted to Judaism. As a master's candidate in Judaic studies at the University of Denver, she was a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University in 1996-1997, during which time she also worked at the University's School of Education. In 1999 she moved to New York and began working for the Rothberg International School's Office of Academic Affairs. As assistant director, she was responsible for all Rothberg International School graduate programs and scholarships, liaising with American institutions of education and actively recruiting students. As a student, she received numerous scholarships, including a travel grant from the Dorot Foundation. She had arrived in Israel the day before the attack, after escorting a group of U.S. students to Jerusalem to begin their studies at the Hebrew University.

David Gritz, 24, from Paris, France, who had dual U.S.-French citizenship, was about to begin the Summer Ulpan at the Rothberg International School. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Paris IV in July 2000 and had just completed his first year of studies for his master's degree in philosophy, at the University of Paris X, where he had received recognition as an outstanding student. He spent summers at his parent's house in Peru, MA, in the Berkshires.

David (Diego) Ladowski, 29, was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1992. He studied in the Prepartory Program-Mechina at the Rothberg School and completed his undergraduate studies in communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1996. He served as an academic officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Following his discharge from the army in 1999, he held administrative positions at the Hebrew University and the Ministry of Communications. Ladowski joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001 and was shortly due to assume his first diplomatic assignment at the Embassy of Israel in Lima, Peru.

Levina Shapira was the head of the student services department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Jerusalem in 1949, she was a long-time employee of the university. After completing her army service she studied sociology and political science at the Hebrew University, earning her BA in 1972. She began working for the university as a student and became a member of staff after graduation. Her appointments included academic secretary at the Faculty of Science and associate dean of the Faculty of Humanities. During her tenure as head of the student services department, Levina introduced and upgraded a wide range of on-line and computerized services, the most advanced in Israel today, for students. Recently, she was involved in planning the new student information center at the Mount Scopus campus.

Dafna Spruch was born in Tel Aviv and, following her military service, enrolled at the Hebrew University where she completed a BA in psychology and sociology. After her studies, she worked as a systems analyst at the Ministry of Education's data processing unit and, then, as a senior analyst at the National Library. Some two years later she consented to a request from the Student Administration to join its staff, and remained there for most of her professional life. It is from there that she set out 26 years later for a lunch from which she was never to return. Dafna soon became the backbone of the department, acting as both deputy director and the historical memory of an indispensable rationale; yet she always shunned pivotal positions and refused all offers to head the system.

Her exceptional performance over the years not only singled her out but also earned her the commendation of superiors and colleagues alike. Praise ranged from the professional to the personal: "excellent worker," "talented and highly competent," "outstanding," "excellent and very intelligent" and - "a good friend." Colleagues say that there was always room in her heart; she always had a shoulder to offer, time to listen and offer sound advice.

Dafna reached high - new and innovative ideas, whether her own or others', always fell on receptive ears. At the same time, her feet were firmly planted on the ground, her common sense able to anchor the imaginative and translate it into practice. She could separate the wheat from the chaff and understood the intricacies involved in the Administration's large systems, finding simple solutions to make them work. Among other things, she and her staff initiated the full computerization of a variety of forms, including student schedules, grades and courses, as well as follow-up on teaching loads, and the implementation of ideas adopted by the system as a whole.

Dafna was a warm, loving and devoted wife and mother, who always put her family first.

Revital Barashi was the youngest of thirteen children in a Jerusalem family. She lived downtown, and about six months ago celebrated her 30th birthday. For the past seven years she worked with and trained young staff at the Hebrew University's Law Faculty.

Her conscientiousness and the responsibility she showed in the performance of her duties won her the university's Outstanding Employee award in 2000.

According to the commendation cited at the awards ceremony: "Revital excels in all she does. She may always have her hands full but she is nevertheless attentive to and patient with all who turn to her, her natural courtesy unimpaired by her diligence. She is intelligent and will try to execute every task as quickly as possible, drawing on all the help she is able to muster."

Colleagues describe her as "pretty, talented, warm and always ready to help. Revital did her work efficiently and meticulously and, at all times, with a smile."

May their memory be blessed

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