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Plunging to a new low

Terrorism | Jerusalem blast where "Jews, Muslims, and Christians study together" stuns campus community; one American tells WORLD: "Everyone is trying only to cope"

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

Last spring a student newspaper at Hebrew University warned that security at its Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem was not tight enough. It noted that the school's cafeteria was particularly vulnerable if, for instance, a Palestinian militant detonated a bomb in the crowded eating hall.

That's what happened on July 31 in a bombing that killed seven, including five Americans. The terrorist group Hamas said it carried out the attack as part of a revenge spree following the July 23 assassination by Israeli forces of its military leader, Salah Shehadeh.

It was one of the most significant attacks involving Americans since Sept. 11.

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An unknown assailant left a brown paper bag on a table in the crowded cafeteria, where Israeli, Arab, and international students were preparing for exams. In it was a nail bomb detonated by cell phone. Killed in the explosion were Benjamin Blutstein, 25, of Susquehanna Township, Pa.; Marla Bennett, 24, of San Diego; Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, who worked in New York; David Gritz, 24, a French-American; and an Israeli with American citizenship whose name was not released immediately. Four Americans were among more than 80 students injured in the blast.

Speaking in front of the student center one day after the bombing, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who once attended Hebrew University, said: "We have grieved with all the people of Israel as they have faced Palestinian terrorism.... Now that five American citizens have been killed, our grief is even deeper."

Mr. Kurtzer said terrorists in Israel had reached a new level of depravity. "They have violated the sanctuary of a university, in which Israelis, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, and Christians study together."

One American Christian beginning Hebrew studies at the university, a Fulbright scholar who asked not to be identified by name because of security concerns, said, "No one expected the campus to be a target." Every new student was acquainted with one of the victims, Janis Coulter, because she signed all admission papers, he told WORLD. At orientation one day after the bombing, "Everyone is trying only to cope. It would be heartbreaking to leave but we are definitely reevaluating our situation."

Palestinian adherents also came under fire from liberal humanitarians who are usually their allies. A long-awaited United Nations report released on Aug. 1 found no evidence to support Palestinian claims that Israeli forces massacred up to 500 people in the Jenin refugee camp last spring. The report said Palestinian militants broke international law by stockpiling weapons and placing fighters among residents at the densely populated camp. Those conclusions are supported by generally pro-Palestinian human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, which found no evidence of massacre after a lengthy onsite investigation.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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