September 14, 2003

Our heroes were fighting to save lives, to practice emergency medicine.Last week’s terror in Jerusalem 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 episode on DVD of 24, the addictive US series about terrorism. Momo was crossing Emek Refaim, which is two blocks from our house, and they both heard the blast.

Momo, 16, is 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.

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 mans head was in the middle of the street.

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

Within ten 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 son 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 and outrage and grief of an attack so close to home.

After Momo showered, we together 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 sixteen 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 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.

The next 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 the attacks, the children need to go to school, to get on with our lives.

But the news contained more bitter tidings that took your breath away. Among the dead in the previous night’s blast was Dr. David Applebaum and his daughter Nava. Nava was due to be married that night in a joyous wedding of 500 guests. David was a doctor of emergency medicine who was a fixture in Jerusalem’s medical scene, having treated hundreds of terror victims. He was the founder of Terem, Jerusalem’s private emergency medical clinic, and my best friend’s partner. He was a learned man, a kind man, a tzaddik. He was a true hero of Jerusalem.

I let Momo “sleep in” that morning. I tried to wake him but he said he needed some more sleep. His teacher from school 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 the morning’s funeral for Dr. 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.

More on Blog

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

Read more: