My friend Esther Abramowitz reminds me that it was six years ago today that the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at Hebrew University was bombed. Esther, who works at the Hillel on the Mt. Scopus campus, across a small plaza from the Sinatra cafeteria, called me moments after she heard the bomb. I asked her not to run outside, but she did, and she found many of her friends injured, or dead.
I happened to be in Gaza at the time, leaving an interview with Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the late, unlamented Hamas leader. "The Jews are put before us as a test," he told me. "Allah has sent you today to me as a test. We have failed a test, which is why we are being punished today. We are not true enough to Allah. But Allah has promised that He will bless us."
It was a Hamas bomb that killed nine people in the Sinatra cafeteria. Some of them were Americans, students at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. The murdered: Marla Bennet, Ben Blutstein, Janice Ruth Coulter, Revital Barashi, Daphna Shprug, David Diego Lidovski, David Gritz, and Levina Shapira.
Esther sent this note to her friends today. She gave me permission to publish it here:
Shalom. I hope you are having a beautiful day wherever you are.
Today is July 31, the 6 year anniversary of the bombing here at Hebrew U. The Hebrew date is the 22nd of Av, which falls this year on Shabbat, August 23rd.
Memories and images are rushing in and out of my day and night dreams these past few days and weeks. The horrors of that day, of bearing witness to pain, of death, strength, human dignity, angels dressed in human clothes, devastating sadness, fear and overwhelming kindness are always with me. And the incredible bracha (blessing) of being here in this place is also always with me. I for sure will be at Frank Sinatra for lunch today at 1:30. The schnitzel is still the best in town! I wish you could join me.
I found something that I wrote one week after the pigua (attack) that still feels very real to me today. Thank you for letting me share it with you and please forgive me if you have already read this. Know how grateful I am that you are in my life.
Hi. I am so sorry that I have not been in touch sooner. I lost track of time and realize that I have been out of touch for a few days. Thank you, m'kol halev, (with all my heart) for being in touch and sending your love. It has given me much needed strength and is much appreciated.
I walked back into Hillel a while ago from the university ceremony outside of Frank Sinatra marking one week since the bombing. They did it at 1:30- the exact time that it happened last week. They put up a tarp to shade us from the strong sun. I kept on thinking about how hot it was last week and that there was no comfort for the wounded from the sun then.
I have learned so many life lessons over the past week. I am not sure that I necessarily needed to learn them all at once or that I did not already know them, but I have been thinking about them over the past few days and wanted to share them with you.
I learned about the incredible gift one is given to be with someone in the midst of their pain; I learned of the power & the comfort of community; I learned of the wonder of meeting strangers and instantaneously becoming family because of circumstance; I learned of the importance of simple kindness from my dearest friends; (Like one friend who cleaned out my fridge because I was too overwrought to deal with it, or others who invited me to sleep at their place the second night after the bomb because I could not sleep at home, or the friends who just let me talk and talk and it does not matter.) I learned of the gentleness of caretakers in the hospital; the honor of meeting people who share their story with you, and the overwhelming generosity of the Pardes community. I learned of the compassion of great teachers, the wisdom of psychologists, and the deep raw pain of mourning. I learned about the ripples upon ripples upon ripples of people that are touched by death and pain. And I learned of the strength of the human soul.
I pray for comfort for those in mourning and some light for those in pain.