Bus bombing rocks Jerusalem, at least 21 injured


At least 21 people were injured in a bus bombing in Jerusalem, police said, in the first such attack in Israel in years.

A city bus exploded and went up in flames Monday evening on a major thoroughfare in the southern end of the capital. The blast set a second bus and a car nearby on fire.

Two people were seriously injured in the attack, with seven moderately injured and 12 lightly injured.

An explosive device was planted in the rear half of the bus, which was stopped on the major thoroughfare at the time of the explosion, according to the Israel Police. Police are examining the possibility that a suicide bomber committed the attack and was among the injured.

“We’re looking into where the explosive came from, who placed it, how he got to the bus,” Jerusalem Police Commissioner Yoram Halevy said, according to Israeli news website Ynet. “We had no specific warning about this explosive. We are fully prepared ahead of the holidays and ready for any eventuality.”

Or Bondy was aboard the No. 12 bus on Moshe Baram Road near Hebron Road when it blew up. He had just sent his father, Tzadok, a text saying “What’s up, dad?”

The newly married 25-year-old, who was on his way home after a day at work, received burns on his face, arms and legs. Two hours later, Or Bondy was entering a CT machine barely able to talk.

“I always pushed it aside,” Tzadok Bondy told reporters regarding Jerusalem’s terror attacks. “Now it’s infiltrated my family.”

The explosion engulfed the nearly empty bus in flames. The flames scorched an adjacent bus, as well as a nearby car. A large fire raged at the intersection and sent smoke billowing into the air.

At Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem, seven of the victims were hospitalized. Three were anesthetized and receiving oxygen.

The victims had burns on their upper bodies, as well as wounds from nails and ball bearings packed into the explosive device. The wounds, according to Avi Rivkind, head of Hadassah’s trauma unit, were similar to those from previous Jerusalem terror attacks.

“We’ll settle the score with these terrorists,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We’re in an ongoing struggle against terror — terror of missiles, terror of shooting, terror of explosives, of missiles and also terror of tunnels.”

The attack follows a six-month wave of stabbing and shooting attacks in Jerusalem, the West Bank and across Israel. The rate of those attacks had declined to normal levels, though Israeli officials remained concerned about a flare-up in violence surrounding upcoming religious holidays, including Passover.

Israel experienced a wave of bus bombings during the second intifada in the early 2000s. The bombings killed hundreds of people and deterred many Israelis from riding buses. Bus bombings declined following an Israeli military operation in the West Bank and the construction of Israel’s West Bank security barrier. In recent years, most Palestinian terror attacks come in the form of either stabbings, shootings or car rammings at public transit stops.

Deputy Jerusalem Police spokesman Assi Aharoni said the police were hunting for suspects and urged the public to be alert.

Deadly bomb explosion in Jerusalem – ZAKA Emergency response [PHOTO SLIDESHOW]


ZAKA volunteer Motti Bukchin: “We were sitting in a meeting in the ZAKA headquarters when we heard a huge blast and the whole building shook. We ran into the street, carrying our emergency medical equipment and yellow vests, without even waiting for the news to come on our beepers. When we arrived at the site of the attack, we saw two women lying in huge pools of blood on the pavement. We began resuscitation immediately and were soon joined by other medical personnel from MDA and ZAKA. The two women were evacuated to hospital in serious to critical condition. “

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav : “The sights, sounds and the smell took us back to the time of the terror attacks. We treated many other injured people behind the bus stop including a seriously injured, but conscious, yeshiva student. Because of the location of the attack, close to the headquarters of ZAKA and other emergency medical personnel, the injured were treated and evacuated very quickly. ZAKA volunteers are at the site clearing the blood and other body parts from the scene.”

Find more photos like this on EveryJew.com

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]


LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.



From The Express . . .

SIR PAUL: TERROR TARGET
Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel

 

 

Bombings Damage Peace Plan Further


Israel had feared an outbreak of terror attacks this week after its failed airstrike against the founder of Hamas and the resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The fears soon came true.

Two suicide bombings struck the Jewish State Tuesday, killing at least 15 victims and wounding dozens. The two attacks left the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan in tatters and marked a new surge of deadly violence in the nearly 3-year-old intifada.

Also this week, Ahmed Karia accepted a nomination to replace Abbas.

A suicide bomb attack at a crowded Jerusalem cafe on Tuesday night claimed at least eight lives, including the bomber, and wounded dozens. Tuesday night’s bombing, which wounded dozens, occurred at the Cafe Hillel in a trendy neighborhood of Jerusalem.

A security guard at Cafe Hillel, a popular hangout for young people in Jerusalem’s German Colony, tried to stop the bomber from going inside, police said, but the bomber managed to push his way in. That attack came just hours after another suicide bomber killed at least seven Israelis and wounding 15 others at a bus stop near the Tzrifin military base near Rishon LeZion.

Hamas praised both attacks.

Israel reacted to the attacks with a retaliatory strike of its own Wednesday, killing three people. A Hamas official, Mahmoud Zahar, who was the target of the strike in the Gaza Strip, escaped with light injuries. But his son, another family member and a bodyguard were killed, and his wife and daughter injured.

Also Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cut short his visit to India and returned to Israel to discuss other possible responses to the bombings.

The attack at the base drew pronounced U.S. condemnation.

"We certainly condemn in the strongest possible terms the horrific act of terrorism today," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "This underscores the urgency with which the Palestinian Authority needs to take immediate and effective steps to dismantle and disarm the terrorist capabilities of organizations that take innocent lives in order to prevent the peace process from going forward."

Israel’s airstrike Saturday in Gaza lightly wounded Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the blind, paraplegic cleric who founded Hamas, along with 15 others. Yassin was meeting with other Hamas leaders in an apartment building.

"It’s us or them," Sharon told Israel’s daily Yediot Achronot over the weekend, referring to the leaders of Hamas. "They are dead men. We won’t give them any rest since they have just one goal, our destruction."

Karia condemned the suicide attacks.

"Such an act stresses once again [the need for] ways to end this killing," Karia said, speaking before the attack in Jerusalem. Karia said he regretted that innocent lives are lost "as a result of violence and counterviolence."

Karia, considered a pragmatist, is a veteran of the PLO and one of the architects of the Oslo accords. During the past decade, he has served in several positions in the Palestinian Authority. Most recently, he was speaker of the Palestinian legislative council.

On Tuesday, Karia told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that in order for him to be successful as prime minister, Israel must halt its assassinations of Palestinian terrorists, freeze settlements in the West Bank and end its isolation of Arafat.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel would not cooperate with a prime minister who followed Arafat’s orders and refused to crack down on the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.

Tuesday’s terrorist attacks highlighted what that infrastructure can achieve.

"To see all these cars ground to a halt, and the helicopters in the air, the dozens of police cars and ambulances is to remember that we have a crying need for an unrelenting effort to stop this war," said Stephen P. Cohen of the Israel Policy Forum, who was in the Rishon LeZion area when the bombing occurred. "There could be no better use of the president’s time and efforts."

If Karia is to succeed, he will have to navigate the political waters better than Abbas. In his short-lived tenure as prime minister, Abbas repeatedly clashed with Arafat over Palestinian Authority policy, particularly regarding control of the Palestinian security services. But in his resignation speech before Palestinian lawmakers, Abbas placed the blame on Israel and the United States for undermining his government.

"The fundamental problem was Israel’s unwillingness to implement its commitments in the road map," he said. He also indirectly criticized Arafat and other Palestinian leaders, emphasizing "harsh and dangerous domestic incitement against his government."

After Abbas’ resignation, members of Sharon’s Cabinet repeated their calls for harsh measures against Arafat for undermining peace efforts. Some ministers called for exiling Arafat.

Israel and the United States accuse Arafat of supporting terrorist attacks and of blocking Abbas’ efforts to implement the road map. Israeli officials have even suggested that Arafat be killed. Palestinians warn that any successor to Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza would be marked from the outset as an Israeli patsy and that exile would amplify Arafat’s power.

Jerusalem Bombing Shatters Cease-Fire


Yehuda Meshi-Zahav was checking the bodies lying on the pavement next to the bus destroyed in yet another suicide bombing, when he heard a baby crying.

Meshi-Zahav, the head of ZAKA — the ultra-Orthodox organization that collects victims’ body parts after terrorist attacks — found the 1-month-old boy and made sure that he was taken to a hospital for treatment. The baby turned out to be OK, and his parents — both of them lying wounded in the hospital — were found.

But the fact that so many children were killed or wounded in Tuesday’s bombing in Jerusalem — which killed at least 20 and wounded more than 100 — has made the tragedy even more painful for a nation already reeling from dozens of suicide bombings in the 3-year-old Palestinian intifada.

Apparently dressed as an Orthodox Jew, the terrorist shoved his way among the many passengers — mostly ultra-Orthodox families returning from the Western Wall — to the center of the elongated bus, where he detonated the bomb he was carrying.

Five of the dead were American citizens, according to The Associated Press.

The bombing came days after Israel had decided to relax its demand for a Palestinian Authority crackdown on terrorist groups, announcing that it would turn over four more West Bank cities to P.A. control.

The bombing seemed likely to intensify criticism of the government from the Israeli right, which had been critical of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to pull the army back from West Bank cities even without serious Palestinian action against terror groups.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Israel froze security talks and its planned withdrawal. However, Israeli officials said Wednesday that in the long run they still believed the withdrawal — and other parts of the "road map" peace plan — should proceed.

Israel briefly considered expelling P.A. President Yasser Arafat, who they consider an instigator of violence, but decided against it.

Israel also reimposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rolling back steps that had eased movement for Palestinian civilians as a way to discourage support for terrorism.

Amid Israeli and American demands for serious moves against terror, P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas suspended contacts with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Abbas, who vehemently condemned the bombing, reportedly ordered P.A. security services to arrest those responsible.

Officials told the Jerusalem Post that Israel expected to see some P.A. anti-terror moves already on Wednesday.

Israel is expected to intensify its hunt for terrorists if P.A. forces do not take action, but a major military operation like last year’s two major West Bank offensives is not being considered, Israeli officials said.

The explosion took place shortly after 9 p.m. on an extended "accordion" bus traveling along Shmuel Hanavi Street. The bus was on its way from the Western Wall to the Orthodox Har Nof neighborhood when it exploded.

Jerusalem Police Commander Mickey Levy said the bomb was particularly powerful and caused exceptional damage.

The bomber acted as Abbas was meeting in Gaza with heads of Islamic organizations trying to salvage the cease-fire that Palestinian terrorist groups declared in late June.

Moments later, Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, saying the bomber was from Hebron. The group had threatened to avenge Israel’s killing last week of its local leader in Hebron.

Later, however, Hamas also sought to claim responsibility for the blast, saying it was revenge for the killing of a Hamas activist several months ago.

"Every time Israel has made a gesture of peace to the Palestinians over the past 10 years the response has been the murder of our men, women and children. This has to stop," said Daniel Seaman, head of Israel’s Government Press Office. "It must be realized that this is not an Arab-Israeli issue but rather an international campaign of terror which is ongoing from New York and Baghdad to Moscow and Jerusalem."

The United States condemned the bombing and called on the Palestinian Authority to dismantle terrorist groups.

A senior U.S. official, however, said he did not think the attack would jeopardize the road map, according to The Associated Press.

The P.A.’s information minister, Nabil Amer, urged Israel to show restraint.

In the wake of the attack, political sources said Israel was at a delicate stage as it tried to decide how to proceed.

Israeli officials said Tuesday that all understandings reached with the Palestinians on the transfer of security control in West Bank cities were void. Israeli officials canceled talks scheduled for Tuesday night and Wednesday with Palestinian officials.

Tuesday night’s explosion brought to an end almost two months of relative quiet in Jerusalem. Tourists gradually had returned to the city, filling hotels, restaurants and pubs.

The Western Wall plaza was filled with visitors on Tuesday evening, and the bus that was attacked was filled with families returning from the wall.

Eighteen of the 20 dead had been identified by Wednesday. Names released included Mordechai Reinitz, 49, and his son Issachar, 9, of Jerusalem; Goldie Taubenfeld, 43, and her son Shmuel, 3, from New Square, N.Y.; Ya’akov Binder, 50, from Jerusalem; Rabbi Eliezer Weisfish, 42, from Jerusalem; Menachem Liebel, 24, from Jerusalem; Shmuel Zargari, 3 months, from Jerusalem; Lilach Kardi, 22, who was nine months pregnant, from Jerusalem; and Tehilla Nathanson, 3, from Monsey, N.Y.

Other names were withheld at the families’ request, Israeli media reported.

Justice Minister Yosef "Tommy" Lapid suggested that the attack would prove to be a turning point in the conflict. Unless the Palestinian Authority took immediate action against terrorist groups, he said, the entire political process would collapse.

Israeli Housing Minister Effi Eitam said there was no point in expecting the Palestinian Authority to crack down on terror.

"They were given the chance and they did nothing about it," he said.

Israel’s only choice, he said, was to wage an all-out anti-terror campaign of its own.

No One Spared


Last Friday on the way to work from Pisgat Ze’ev, my home neighborhood in Jerusalem, I noticed an armed guard standing by bus stop Number 6. At last, I said to myself, people can board a bus in Jerusalem with a sense of security. Two days later, a suicide bomber managed to board bus Number 6, killing seven and wounding 20.

Within a 48-hour span beginning March 17, 12 Israelis were murdered in three suicide attacks, and dozens were wounded. Terrorism was back on the scene, a sad reminder that its apparent absence in recent months was only an illusion born of the army’s success in preventing attacks.

The thing about terror attacks is that you don’t really grasp the horror unless you have witnessed one or until you hear the stories of the victims’ families. This makes the tragedies more real.

Pisgat Ze’ev borders a number of Arab neighborhoods. Most of its residents are new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, young couples who can’t afford to buy apartments closer to downtown Jerusalem. The terrorist who murdered the passengers on bus Number 6 aimed to hit the poorest of them all, those who can’t afford a private car, those who get up early in the morning to make a decent living.

Yitzhak Moyal, 63, was on his way to the distribution center at the central post office. His wife, Rina, recalled that before going to sleep Saturday night, they discussed the latest news: the murder of Gadi Levy, 31, and his pregnant wife, Dina, 37, of Kiryat Arba by a suicide bomber in Hebron.

"He was not afraid of anything," Moyal said of her husband, who had immigrated to Israel from Morocco in 1960 with his nine brothers and sisters. "He was a strong believer that whatever will be will be."

Moyal left six children and 12 grandchildren.

Some observers noted that given the terrorists’ propensity to blow up buses because of the high number of casualties, the price of attacks is being paid by a particular socioeconomic sector that can’t afford other means of transportation.

One bereaved Israeli said this became acutely clear to him during a recent visit to his son’s grave, which is located in a section of the Haifa cemetery for victims of terrorist attacks.

"I looked around me, and what did I see? Graves of new immigrants, children and soldiers," said Yossi Mendelevitch, whose son, Yuval, 13, was killed in a bus bombing in Haifa earlier this year.

But the terrorists don’t distinguish by age or race; they murder Arabs, too.

One of the victims was Ghaleb Tawil, 42, a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp, located within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries. Tawil was on his way to work at the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem.

Though he had experience as a construction worker, Tawi preferred to work as a cleaning man at the hospital. It made it easier to be close to his 12-year-old daughter, who was often hospitalized due to leukemia.

"Many nights he wouldn’t come home, in order to sleep by her," a family member said.

Tawil left two wives and nine children.

"The suicide bomber was a merciless killer," one wife said. "Who will feed the orphans now?"

In Monday’s bombing in Afula, the terrorist — believed to be a woman — arrived at the shopping mall shortly after 5 p.m. She ascended the steps and approached Kiril Sheremenko, the guard at the entrance. Sheremenko, 23, whisked the woman with a magnometer that started whistling loudly.

He signaled to Hadar Gitlin, a female guard standing behind him, to help him search the woman. But the woman then detonated her bomb, killing Sheremenko on his first day at work — in his first hour.

"He replaced me a quarter of an hour before the attack," said his colleague, Oleg Pohovitz.

The third victim was a customer, Avi Zarihan, 36. Gitlin, 20, was seriously wounded.

Gitlin had lost her job at the shopping center three days earlier, after she failed to identify a suspect in a drill in which a person carrying explosives entered the center. On Monday, her employers gave her another chance, and she was beside herself with joy.

She was not supposed to be on guard duty at 5 p.m. but had volunteered to stay longer to replace a colleague who had not shown up for work. An hour later, she was in the hospital fighting for her life.

Gitlin’s parents, who had heard on the radio that a female guard had been killed, were sure Gitlin had died in the blast. Only later in the evening did they learn that she had survived.

"She’s in bad condition," Gitlin’s father said, "but at least I still have a daughter."

The Soul of Judaism


Rabbi Binny Freedman, the educational director of the
international Jewish organization Isralight, was nonchalantly eating his baked
ziti in the back of Jerusalem’s Sbarro’s pizza store when a suicide bomber
detonated his bomb there.

“It was the loudest explosion I have ever heard, and I am an
Israeli army officer who has been under artillery fire,” Freedman said of the
August 2001 incident. “People started screaming, and then a huge ball of fire
swept through the entire front and there were flames everywhere. It was one of
the most horrible things I have ever seen. I was coming down the stairs, and I
saw a woman lying on the ground, looking at me  trying to say something. I
kneeled down next to her and I saw the light go out in her eyes. I watched her
die. There was a man who had been at the table to my right, and he had been
blown back against the wall, and he was lying there without his legs.”

Freedman’s decision to dine at the back of Sbarro’s meant
that he emerged unharmed from the incident, but the impact of the moment has
not left him. “To be honest, I am still trying to process it,” said the
39-year-old rabbi, who is speaking in Los Angeles this week. “You wonder why
God thought you should still be here, and you wonder why your life was worth
saving.”

A few weeks after the Sbarro bombing was Sept. 11. By then,
Freedman had moved to America, dividing his time between Florida and New York.
He started receiving calls from Sept. 11 survivors and the families of the
victims, who wanted to use Freedman’s experience to help them deal with terror
and make sense of life. Freedman said he made no pretenses about having the
answers, but he started to explore the questions. “If it just about how do you
deal with terror, so then at the end of the day it is just an experience,” he
said. “But the real question is, ‘What is really going on? What is the message
behind all of this?'”

As the educational director of Isralight, Freedman wants
other Jews to start thinking about these questions, too. Isralight is a Jewish
educational organization that began in 1984 in Jerusalem, with the aim of
creating a renaissance of Jewish identity and inspiring Jews of all backgrounds
to have a deeper relationship with their Judaism. Although Freedman and the
other rabbis who work at Isralight are Orthodox, Freedman said the organization
is pluralistic and open to Jews of all backgrounds, from ultra-Orthodox to
Reform. Today there are Isralight centers in Florida, New York and Israel, and
the organization runs educational retreats, weekly classes, Shabbatons, a
leadership training program and a Torah newsletter that goes out to some 15,000
people.

This month, Isralight will have its inaugural Los Angeles
program, a Shabbaton at the Park Hyatt hotel in Century City with Freedman as
the guest speaker, talking about topics such as “Is being a good person
enough?” and “Tikkun Olam: Jewish education after Sept. 11.” After the
Shabbaton, Isralight will hold classes in Los Angeles taught by Rabbi Shlomo
Seidenfeld, and will also look for Los Angeles recruits for its leadership
training program.

As Jews get lost in the many technicalities of the religion,
Isralight can reacquaint them with the soul of Judaism, Freedman said. “There
is something seriously lacking in Jewish education today,” Freedman said. “I
meet a lot of Jews who can tell you the nuts and bolts of Judaism. They can
tell you how to make a tea on Shabbat. They can list for you the 39 categories
of prohibited labor on Shabbat, but if you ask them why Judaism is meaningful,
they couldn’t tell you,” he said. “If you ask the average Jew in Israel, do we
need a State of Israel, they will tell you yes. But if you ask them why — they
couldn’t tell you.” Freedman said that no one is giving “proper answers” to
these questions. “The Jewish people have a lot to offer the world, but we
really have to believe in what we are doing. And that is what Isralight is here
for — to allow people to get back in touch, to challenge people, to explore the
religion.”

Freedman said that Isralight differs from other outreach
organizations such as Aish HaTorah, because Isralight does not aim to convince
anyone of anything, to prove the validity of Judaism and its teachings or to
direct people to Orthodox yeshivot. “At the end of the day, believing in God is
not an intellectual decision,” Freedman said. “It is an emotional and
experiential decision. You don’t prove God, you experience God. I am looking to
inspire people — I want them to rediscover their Jewish pride, not as a
political statement, but as a spiritual statement.”

Isralight’s Two-Day Getaway Shabbat
Retreat will be held at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Century City, from Jan. 31 to
Feb. 1. For reservations, call Stacey Katz at (212) 595-5004 or e-mail stacey@isralight.org

.

Terror on Campus


July 31 was the last day of Ulpan, the six-week Hebrew class at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University’s Rothberg School for Overseas Students. Most of the students studying, lunching and lounging on the Mount Scopus campus that day were not Israelis. They were Americans, Canadians, South Koreans, Japanese taking Hebrew summer classes to prepare for the fall semester. The minority of Israelis on campus were retaking final exams. Ulpan’s finals were to be held on Thursday.

At 1:40 p.m., Sofia Aron was studying for her final the next day, when a bomb exploded in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria, killing at least seven and wounding some 85 people. The cafeteria is adjacent to the new Rothberg building, expanded some three years ago.

Aron, a 19-year-old UC Davis student, immediately began compiling a list of all her friends who might be there. "Everyone hangs out in that cafeteria," she said. She started calling friends on their cellphones, trying to locate her new roommate, Chloe Massey, a Christian from Somerset, England, who had arrived just two days prior.

Aron later found Massey, but still, "We know a lot of people who were there," she said, still in shock. "There’s no reason to target the campus here. There are so many Arabs studying here," the L.A. native said. "I’m shocked that it happened here. I told my parents that I’d be safe here."

The July 31 bombing — not a suicide attack, police believed, but a remotely detonated bomb for which Hamas claimed responsibility — hit one of the last perceived areas of safety in Israel.

The unprecedented attack on an Israeli university campus comes as a big blow to Hebrew University, which prides itself on its secular and pluralistic identity, with a diverse student body hailing from more than 70 countries that includes Israeli Jews and Arabs, new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and American and European exchange students.

"This university has never been attacked," said Peter Weil, president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, Greater Los Angeles region. The closest such incident occurred on April 13, 1947. Arab fighters ambushed a civilian medical convoy from the university, massacring some 80 doctors and nurses.

Officials at Hebrew University and its American affiliates — including the L.A. chapter — expressed their outrage at the incident. They also worried about the repercussions this tragedy might have on an already-ailing Israeli university system, as well as what it might bode regarding the future shape of terrorism.

The bombing follows a steady decrease in enrollment of American students at the university since the intifada began in September 2000. Approximately 1,000 American students enroll in the university’s Summer Ulpan, freshman year and masters programs, and popular junior-year and semester-abroad programs on a typical year. Enrollment this year was already down 40 percent from the previous year, which was far below 1,000.

Following the news of the tragedy, an executive meeting at the Los Angeles offices of American Friends of the Hebrew University was held on the morning of July 31. Weil, Western Region Chairman Richard Ziman and eight other members of American Friends’ West Coast branch joined a conference call initiated by Hebrew University to update American affiliates on the situation and how it was being handled. Two university psychologists have been dispatched to the dorms, and more will be sent in coming days to help students cope with the tragedy.

"For the Palestinians or Hamas to do what they did," Ziman said, "is really striking at the heart of anything that affords the hope for peace in the future."

"I think it’s just another outrage that will push Israelis to dig deeper in their resolve to fight terrorism," Weil said. "This is not only a problem for the administration but from other universities who see the dangerous precedent this could set."

The surrounding buildings, including the Frank Sinatra Student Union, are all named after American supporters. The cafeteria is just across from Nancy Reagan Plaza, which is adjacent to the Rothberg School for Overseas Students.

"There are two towers both named after Angelenos — Richard Ziman and Harvey Silbert," Weil said, noting the prominence and dedication of American support to Hebrew University.

Safety on the campus, located atop Mt. Scopus, has never been an issue. Despite the numerous terrorist attacks that have taken place all around the campus, which is surrounded by some hostile Arab neighborhoods, Hebrew U. itself has never been targeted since it was founded in 1923 by a group of intellectuals and dignitaries that included Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Martin Buber.

"The university feels that it had done an extraordinary job beefing up security around the university several months ago," Ziman said. "But it’s a very difficult environment. You have traffic of 10 to 15,000 people a day to keep the university functioning."

Campus newspapers lately had mentioned the possibility of an attack.

"It’s in the East Jerusalem and surrounded by some Arab neighborhoods that are unfriendly," Weil said. "But it’s on a hilltop so there’s only one way in. They have security and tall fences and you need identification to get in but it’s still an open university."

"Until today, the university was regarded as a very safe place," said Amy Sugin, director of the Office of Academic Affairs.

"Hebrew University has been the last island of sanity in Jerusalem with respect to Arab and Jewish coexistence," said Peter Willner, executive vice president of the American Friends of Hebrew University.

"We have to show our solidarity," said Ziman, whose daughter is presently studying at a Jerusalem yeshiva. "There are several people leaving from New York to Hebrew University. I’ve been there this year in March and in June."

The support, Ziman added, is particularly needed in the wake of the second intifada.

"The universities in Israel are going through unique financial hardships," Ziman said. "The government allocations are down because of other involvement. Enrollment from overseas has gone down significantly and as a result, tuition is down. More local students have been called up to serve in the armed forces."

So what will this mean for Hebrew University? Ziman said that the attack at Hebrew U. could be systematic of a larger trend.

"I think this is a wake-up call, perhaps for universities all over the world," Ziman said. "Universities are some of the hotbed of political ideas. Look what’s happening in Tehran where university crackdowns are happening."

American Friends’ Los Angeles chapter hopes that this will not further erode enrollment at the university.

"Up until this time, nothing like this has happened on an Israeli university," Ziman said. "You felt like it was the unwritten law. We had the riots here and USC was untouched. Will it affect students from abroad going to learn there? I hope not."

For her part, UC Davis student Aron says she intends on taking another six-week Ulpan class and to do her semester abroad at Hebrew U. Right after the bombing, she hurriedly typed up an e-mail to her parents in Los Angeles: "I’m OK, don’t worry."

Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.