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2 more lost in land too used to terror

Published September 11, 2003

JERUSALEM - Dr. David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, never hid from the horror of suicide bombings.

"He was always the first to run to the victims if he was close by," said a friend, Efraim Rosen, "or else he'd be in the E.R."

Thus Applebaum's colleagues grew concerned Tuesday night after a popular cafe exploded in a shower of blood and glass, and they didn't see him tending to the wounded as usual. They soon learned the reason why - a rescue worker recognized the 50-year-old surgeon and his daughter, Nava, lying among the dead.

On Wednesday, Nava Applebaum was to have been married at a lavish affair attended by 760 guests. Instead, hundreds made their way under a scorching sun to the cemetery where father and daughter were buried side by side.

"It's a sad story," said Naama Atiass, one of the mourners. "Such a sad story."

It was a familiar story, too - bomb attack followed by reprisal followed by doubt that there ever will be an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Wednesday, each side leveled familiar charges against the other - Palestinians accusing Israel of a brutal oppression that has destroyed their livelihoods, Israelis accusing Palestinians of callous disregard for human life.

There was also evidence that each side is growing increasingly frustrated with its own leadership.

"Arafat, Sharon - we must change them, bring in new faces," said Akram Kirrish, a Palestinian driver. "No religion tells you to kill people."

"I'm very disappointed in Sharon," said Maurice Tuizer, an Israeli who thinks Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hasn't kept election promises to make the country safer.

"Everyone talks and talks but when he gets there (in office) nothing happens," Tuizer said.

Sharon cut short a trip to India after Tuesday's double suicide bombings - one in the late afternoon that killed eight Israelis at a bus stop in Tel Aviv, the second around 11:15 p.m. at the crowded Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem. The radical group Hamas claimed responsibility for both and said they were in response to Israel's attempt to assassinate Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, last weekend.

On Wednesday morning, even as Israel was burying its dead, the cycle started anew. An Israeli airstrike wounded a Hamas leader and killed his son and a bodyguard.

Although Israel encouraged the formation of Hamas in the '80s as an alternative to Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, hatred between Israel and Hamas has grown so great as to all but doom the "road map" for peace. Neither Arafat nor the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, can make the concessions required for peace without risking civil war with Palestinian militant groups, a respected Palestinian pollster says.

"The real power is in the hands of Hamas and (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad, who can initiate violence," Khalil Shikaki told the BBC. "Only Israel and Hamas have the capacity to resolve" the crisis.

Within hours after an Israeli bomb landed on Sheik Yassin's home in Gaza Saturday, slightly injuring his hand, Hamas threatened to "open the gates of hell." Israelis braced themselves.

"We knew yesterday something was going to happen," Tuizer, co-owner of a security company, said Wednesday as his employees blocked off the area around the wrecked Cafe Hillel. "It was in the air. You could smell it but we didn't know which one."

The cafe - whose red and black sign still proclaims "Great Coffee" - is in Jerusalem's German Colony, an attractive neighborhood of small shops and low-rise apartment buildings.

The area was also home to Dr. Applebaum and his family. Years ago, the Applebaums "made aliyah" - the return of Jews to their ancestral homeland - when they moved from Ohio to Israel.

Disturbed by the long waits in Jerusalem's crowded emergency rooms, Applebaum opened a 24-hour clinic. Its care to thousands of people with minor problems allowed hospitals to devote more time to serious cases, said Rosen, his friend and a doctor at the clinic.

"He was a great man, a person who excelled in everything, which included being a superb doctor, a superb manager and above all a superb human being," Rosen said.

Fourteen months ago, Applebaum took on the role of heading the emergency room at Shaare Zedek, a large hospital that often treats victims of terror attacks.

Applebaum's expertise in trauma injuries earned him an invitation to speak at a recent symposium at New York University marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. He returned to Israel a few days ago, just in time for his daughter's wedding.

Friends say 20-year-old Nava Applebaum and her fiance met while members of a youth organization. Both were religious Jews who did not join the army like most young Israelis, and instead opted for community service. He had already completed his and was studying in a yeshiva; Nava was working with children.

On the night before the wedding, Applebaum wanted to have a fatherly chat with his daughter. It is not clear whether they were inside Cafe Hillel or walking past when a guard began struggling with a suspicious-looking man. He blew himself up just inside the door. Within seconds, the Applebaums and five others were dead and at least 30 injured.

In a country all too used to terror attacks, the neighborhood returned to near normalcy with startling speed. By 7 a.m. the next day, all traces of blood had been removed except for a dark red stain near the cafe roof. Workers had cleared away most of the shattered glass and furniture and were repairing the windows.

At a flower shop across the street, owner Avi Zababa and his two employees - both Palestinians - were setting out pots of violets and geraniums. Zababa knew the dead guard but he said he bore no ill will toward Palestinians in general.

"They are my friends," he said of Jews who frequent the cafe, "and they are my friends," he said of his Arab employees.

Then Zababa shrugged. "This is the situation."

In accord with Jewish custom, the victims were buried quickly. Hundreds of mourners trudged up the hill to the cemetery where Dr. Applebaum and Nava, their bodies wrapped in cloths with the blue and white Star of David, were lowered into the earth. Mourners waited patiently to place stones on each grave in a sign of respect.

That afternoon, Nava should have been on another hill, at the Ramat Rachel Hotel overlooking the city. With its lush gardens and magnificent view, the hotel is a popular place for Israelis to be married; the banquet hall is booked 365 days a year.

"But," said the wedding manager sadly, looking at the deserted hall, "there won't be a wedding tonight."

[Last modified September 11, 2003, 01:46:36]

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