September 11, 2003
Our Heroes and Theirs
Last night's terror struck close to home. The boom of the blast at Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim shook the windows of our house and left no doubt that we were hit again -- this time in our own neighborhood. Our son, Yossi, was on the phone with his brother, Momo, asking when he would be back so they could watch another DVD episode of "24," the addictive series about terrorism. Momo was crossing Emek Refaim, which is two blocks from our house, and they both heard the blast. Momo, 16, a trained paramedic with Magen David Adom, took out his plastic gloves, which he keeps in his school backpack, and began to run the block to the cafe to help with the injured. Yossi ran out the door with my wife, Jane, to go get Momo. (For more on the bombing, see page 24.)
Momo was one of the first to arrive at the scene. As he described it later, it was a scene straight out of Dante or Eli Wiesel. Victims were screaming and strewn about. A group of bystanders was attempting to put out a fire that was consuming a man. Amputated legs and arms were lying in pools of blood. A man's head was in the middle of the street.
Momo acted according to the training he received this summer from a course designed to teach him how to handle these kind of events. As soon as the lead ambulance arrived, he was told whom to evacuate and he helped carry the injured on stretchers. Within 10 minutes it was over, and the amazing Israeli emergency medical teams had again acted with alacrity and professionalism. His mother and brother found him covered with victims' blood and walked him home.
I was in the office when the blast hit, and was frantic with worry because I could not find anyone by phone. Finally, I got a call from my Yossi telling me that our family was OK and that we would meet at home.
Getting home and seeing your son's clothes splattered with blood of a terror attack is a parental experience I will not forget. The relief of seeing him unhurt mixed together with the pain, outrage and grief of an attack so close to home. After Momo showered, we watched on TV the surreal scenes of our amazing and beautiful neighborhood hit, hurt and bleeding. Momo was curled up with his dog, Lucy, hugging her and trying to regain some semblance of normalcy. A 16-year-old boy, having done his heroic work and having seen scenes that one should never see, trying to return to what's left of his adolescence.
We watched the scenes of jubilation in Gaza, with thousands of Palestinians taking to the streets in spontaneous celebration, delirious with joy at the "quality" attacks. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and others praised the "bravery" of the suicide bombers and shouted their satisfaction. He in particular mentioned the "great" Abu Shnab, the "engineer" of dozens of Israeli deaths whose own death was now avenged.
I was struck by the contrast between the two societies: Our heroes were out on Emek Refaim fighting to save lives, to practice emergency medicine, to reduce casualties; their heroes were sowing death and destruction, their engineering was the science of terror.
This morning, as the bright Jerusalem sun came up again over our neighborhood, most of the outward signs of destruction had been washed away and cleaned up. Despite the continued terror alerts and torrent of news about yesterday's attacks, our children needed to go to school; we needed to get on with our lives. But the news contained more bitter tidings. Among the dead in last nights blast was Dr. David Applebaum, 51, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and his daughter Nava, 20. Nava was due to be married tonight in a joyous wedding of 500 guests. David Applebaum, a native of Cleveland, was a fixture in Jerusalem's medical scene, having treated hundreds of terror victims. He had just returned from New York, where he addressed a symposium on Mass Casualty Medicine at NYU Downtown Hospital near Ground Zero. He was the founder of Terem, Jerusalem's private emergency medical clinic, and he was my best friend's partner. He was a learned man, a kind man, a tzadik. He was a true hero of Jerusalem.
I am letting Momo "sleep in" this morning. I tried to wake him, but he said he needed some more sleep. His teacher just called to say that he heard from Momo's friends that he had a "tough night" and was among the first on the terror scene. He suggested that after we attend this morning's funeral for Applebaum and his daughter that I take him to school, so he can be with his friends and talk about what has happened. My son and his friends, true heroes of Jerusalem.
Los Angeles native Jonathan Medved is the founder of Israel Seed Partners, a venture capital fund, and resides with his family in Jerusalem.