Two perceptions of a campus bombing

By David E. Kaplan

Just how far apart Israel’s leadership is from Palestinian leadership is reflected in two divergent reports on the same issue appearing in the same The Jerusalem Post – 1st August 2022 edition.

On page 2, its reported that Israel’s Security Cabinet voted to deduct 600 million from tax and tariffs collected for the PA as it is legally entitled to do annually so long as the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays terrorists who attack Israelis. The PA’s policy of paying terrorists or their families has been nicknamed “pay for slay”.

On the same day on the internet edition of The Jerusalem Post an article’s title reads in bold:

PA raises salary for terrorists who killed 9 at Hebrew U

Was  it a coincidence or was it literally rubbing salt it into the wound – in this case ‘wounds” – that on the exact date of the 20th anniversary of that horrendous bombing of the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria on the Mount Scopus  campus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the 31 July 2002, the PA chose to announce the raising of the “salaries” of the four terrorists responsible for the bombing  by 14.29%!

Over the past 20 years, the PA has paid Wael Qassem, Wassim Abbasi, Alla Aldin Abbasi and Muhammed Odeh  – all members of an eastern Jerusalem Hamas cell – over NIS 8 million (over $2.5 million) for their role in what has become known as the “Hebrew University Massacre”. Their monthly payments are set to increase from NIS 7,000 ($2,251) per month to NIS 8,000 ($2,572). They are reported to receive an additional NIS 300 shekels (£73) each month because they were residents of Jerusalem prior to their imprisonment.

Four other terrorists convicted for taking part in the attack receive a salary from the PA as well.

Deadly Defiant. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says that the PA will never stop payments to the killers of Israelis. “If we are left with one penny, we will spend it on the families of the prisoners and martyrs.”

The increased payments of 14.29 % is well above the 4.47 % rate of inflation in Gaza and the West Bank hence it begs the question:

What message is the PA sending – that not only is killing Jewish Israelis acceptable – it is rewarded.

This is tantamount as a state sanctioned – “License to Kill”!

Nine people – four Israelis and five foreign nationals – were murdered with a further 85 injured, 14 of them seriously. Most of the injured were between the ages of 18 and 30.

Death & Destruction. Workers clean the inside of a cafeteria on July 31, 2002, hours after a bomb exploded at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, killing nine, four of them Americans, and wounding more than 70. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

Though classes were not in session, students were taking exams at the time of the blast, and the cafeteria was crowded with diners. There were also numerous students in the building registering for classes for the coming school year.

The Frank Sinatra Cafeteria was also near the Rothberg International School, where about 80 pupils from the US and other Western countries had arrived to prepare for the fall semester.

The explosion gutted the cafeteria. It also gutted the lives of so many families both in Israel and abroad.

Cries on Campus. Bodies are taken away following an explosion at the busy cafeteria in east Jerusalem’s Hebrew University July 31, 2002. (credit: FLASH90)

One recalls on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the words of Dr. Katherine Baker, a Penn State University microbiologist whose son, Benjamin Blutstein, was one of the victims.

I don’t think time ever heals this kind of loss. There are days I can’t get through the day without crying, there are a couple of days in a row I can do it. But it’s extremely hard.”

Blutstein and his classmate Marla Bennett were both enrolled at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

These were two wonderful young people, preparing for a career as teachers of Jewish studies in North America.”

One can only imagine now on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre what the families of the murdered must be feeling when they read  that the PA are increasing their monthly “salaries” for murdering their loved ones!

This is only one drama of a conflict playing out but it is a microcosm of the chasm that separates two people. Is there ever a meeting place when one people see  it as “pay for slay” and the other side as a “”martyrs fund”?

While the names of the four murderers or “martyrs” as the PA refer to them are making the news  because of their increased “salaries”, it is important to remember and honour the names of the innocent victims:

Benjamin Blutstein – Age 25, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Ben was a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute. While a religious young man who by day studied Judaism, Gemara and Chumash at night worked as a disc jockey.

Marla Bennett – Age 24, from San Diego, California, Marla was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and a student in the two-year graduate students’ program in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School and at the Pardes Institute.

Revital Barashi – Age 30, Revital was the youngest of 13 children of a Jerusalem family. Revital worked in the secretariat of the Faculty of Law, and she was involved in assisting the academic and administrative staff and in guiding new employees.

David Gritz – Age 24, from Paris, David had completed his undergraduate studies and his first year of graduate studies in Philosophy at the University of Paris, where he was an outstanding student. David had registered for the Rothberg International School’s summer ulpan, which he never got to begin.

David Diego Ladowski – Born in Argentina in 1973, David immigrated to Israel in 1992. David was about to finish his master’s degree in Public Policy at the Hebrew University, and was due to start his first diplomatic job in the Israeli Embassy in Lima, Peru.

Janis Ruth Coulter – Age 36, from Boston, Massachusetts, Janice had a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Denver. She was the senior program coordinator at the Rothberg International School’s New York office.

Plane Horror. U.S. Airport workers prepare to load August 1, 2002, the coffins of Benjamin Thomas Blutstein, 25, and Jansin Ruth Coulter, 36, at a terminal of Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv to be shipped to the United States for burial. Both American students were killed in a bombing at the Hebrew University. (credit: REUTERS/HAVAKUK LEVISON)

Dina Carter – Age 38, Dina was born in North Carolina, and immigrated to Israel in 1990. She worked as a librarian and archivist in the Publications and Archives Department of the  University’s Jewish National and University Library. Dina was also a talented artist who painted and sculpted.

Levina Shapira – Age 53, Levina was born in Jerusalem. She worked at the Hebrew University for 30 years and worked her way up to the senior position of Director of the Student Administration Authority.

Daphna Spruch – Born in Tel Aviv, Daphna worked as a systems coordinator in the Student Administration Authority for close to 30 years, and was one of its most senior and experienced workers. She had been studying for her master’s degree in Comparative Religion.

Had former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir been still alive in 2002 during the 2nd Intifada when the bombing took place, she may have reflected on her words:

We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us

Illuminating the Dark.  An unidentified Israeli lights candles at a memorial at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem Thursday August 1, 2002, a day after a bomb blew apart the university’s Frank Sinatra International Students Center cafeteria, killing seven people, five of them Americans (AP Photo/Enric Marti).

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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