(as prepared for delivery)
ברשותכם, דברי אשא באנגלית
Professor Ben-Sasson, Professor Stroumsa, Ambassador Bigot, students and alumni of Hebrew University, friends, family members, and honored guests:
Today, we remember the loss of nine members of the Hebrew University family, Ben Blutstein, Marla Bennet, Revital Barashi, David Gritz, David Diego Ladovski, Janice Ruth Kolter, Dina Carter, Levina Shapira, and Daphna Shafruch, yehi zihram baruch.
A decade has passed since these nine special people were lost to us in a terrible, senseless tragedy, taken from us by violence inspired by hate. They were Americans and Israelis, they were from Jerusalem, from Pennsylvania, from California, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts. The Talmud teaches us that the value of each life is equal to an entire world. For each family that lost a loved one, it was like the loss of a whole world.
As any of us who have spent time at Hebrew University know, this Frank Sinatra plaza is an amazing spot—truly a picture out of a catalogue for what energetic, rigorous academic discussion and exchange can, and frankly, should be. When ten years ago, terrorists struck the cafeteria here— a place where people from all over the world studied, where Jews and Arabs came together to share a meal and discuss their ideas— they struck at the heart of tolerance, the heart of the movement towards peace, and at the heart of coexistence, killing nine innocent souls.
It is important that we not only remember the abruptness with which these nine friends were taken from us, but that we also remember the lives they led, and the gifts they shared.
Although they hailed from different places, they all had something in common. They shared a passion for life, for their work or studies, and felt a deep connection to the land of Israel.
Having spent my sophomore year at Hebrew University, compelled and drawn by the opportunity to study in Israel, to discover Jerusalem, its picturesque neighborhoods and its unique atmosphere, and to immerse myself in the history and study of Judaism, I find it easy to identify with the passion and commitment that brought the Americans we remember today to Israel.
Marla Bennett, who has been described as sweet, smart, beautiful, and full of goodness and a zest for Judaism, planned to share her enthusiasm and become a teacher of Jewish studies. Marla knew well the seriousness and risks involved in studying in Jerusalem at the time, but wrote that, “…at least if I am here, I can take an active role in attempting to put back together all that has broken.”
Ben Blutstein, who had majored in Judaic studies in college, studied the Talmud during the day, and at night, was a DJ who called himself “Benny the B.” He wrote to his family that, while it might seem crazy to live in Jerusalem with all the dangers, “I am growing and changing. I don’t know where this learning is taking me, but I think it’s where I should be going.”
David Gritz, who held both American and French citizenship, was a talented musician, about to begin his graduate studies in Hebrew and Jewish thought. He was known for his bright curiosity.
Janis Ruth Coulter was escorting 19 American students from New York, who were to study at Hebrew University. Her Rabbi spoke of how when Janis smiled, everyone around her would smile, and how much she loved the work she was doing.
Dina Carter, from North Carolina, immigrated to Israel and worked at Hebrew University as a librarian. She was described by her colleagues as perceptive, intelligent, with a winning personality. She was also a talented artist who enjoyed music, painting, and sculpture- she drew landscapes and sculpted from wood as a hobby.
Levina Shapira and Dafna Shafruch were friends, and went to lunch that day. Both worked at Hebrew University, for the Student Authority. Both Levina and Dafna worked here there for nearly 30 years. Levina is remembered for her hugs. Dafna was described as the brains of the Student Authority. Both were mothers of three.
Revital Barashi was the youngest of 13 children of a Jerusalem family, she had worked as a student adviser in the Law school here for seven years, and was described as “talented, cheerful, and always willing to help others.”
David Diego Ladowski was born in Argentina and made aliya when he was 19 years old, and a year before the bombing, had joined the MFA’s diplomatic cadet program. He had a promising career ahead of him, and is remembered for his sense of humor and wit.
The devastating attacks that took them from us have left a void that can never be filled. Years later, we still feel the pain and sorrow and loss of families forced to bury their loved ones too soon, imagining the children who will not be born, the students who will not be taught, the dreams that will never be fulfilled.
This was a group of people, who each in their own way, were making a difference. Although perhaps not their direct intention, through their work, their studies, they were building a bridge between the United States and Israel.
A decade has passed, and despite the sadness that fills us all today, I find solace in knowing that the bridges that they were building, those bridges could not be bombed or destroyed by terrorists. The connections between the American and Israeli people, founded and built by Marla, by Ben, by Janis, by David, by Dina… this closeness could not, and cannot be taken away by any attack.
In fact, a decade has passed, and the connections we feel to each other are only stronger, as we see here at Hebrew University. There are over 2000 international students here at the Rothberg International School today, and countless alumni in the United States and around the world. My wife, Julie, and I are proud to count ourselves among them.
There is no greater memorial to these nine people who were so devoted, so passionate, about their educational pursuits, than how the community of Hebrew University has come together, and continues to shine as a thriving, vibrant institution of higher education, coexistence, tolerance, and so much more.
A decade has passed, and Hebrew University continues to welcome students of different nationalities, of different faiths, from all over the world.
A decade has passed, and the classrooms, halls and dormitories are alive with energetic debate and exchange between students from a full spectrum of social and political views, free to express themselves, their ideas, their hopes and goals.
A decade has passed, and partnerships between American, Israeli and international scholars continue to provide amazing, innovative contributions that benefit us all.
A decade has passed, and friendships are nurtured, bonds are created, and bridges are built between Israelis and Americans, and amongst peoples of all faiths and nationalities here at Hebrew University, every day.
The United States and Israel are more than just allies, we are friends. The Israeli and American people understand tragedy. And we understand resilience. And what is most moving, is that in our times of tragedy, we reach out to each other, and we stand together.
And so, as we remember the nine lives that were taken from us so cruelly ten years ago today, and as we remember the countless lives lost to terror, let us also commit to continue to find within ourselves the strength to build, to teach, to learn, and to create. That is the surest way to honor their lives, and their memories. From tragedy comes resilience. From resilience comes our future. Thank you.