Foreign students take heavy toll in university terror blast

The terrorist bombing of the Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus cafeteria claimed an international toll, as two Israelis, four Americans and a French citizen were killed, and many foreign students were injured in the blast. At least four Americans were wounded, and three students from South Korea were reported in serious condition. The Hebrew University was considered a symbol of co-existence, and presumed safe from terror.

The Israelis killed in the bombing were identified as Levina Shapira, 53, and David (Diego) Ladovsky, 29. Shapira had worked at the university for 33 years, and served as head of the Student Authority, a job which gave her responsibility for the registration of thousands of students. She ate lunch each day at the cafeteria in the Frank Sinatra Pavilion with her colleagues, many of whom were injured in the blast. "Mother was the glue that held us together," her daughter Adi said yesterday.

Ladovsky, who had just completed a master's degree in public administration, was a member of the Foreign Ministry's diplomatic corps. He was due to begin serving as second secretary in Israel's embassy in Lima, Peru, in ten days. Ladovsky was born in Argentina and moved to Israel ten years ago. He is survived by his parents and two siblings.

One of the American victims was identified by a family spokesman as Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, an assistant director of graduate studies based at Hebrew University's New York office. Coulter had been escorting American students to Israel when the attack occurred.

"Janis Ruth was a wonderful, loving, caring person," said Harry King from Boston, where Coulter's family lives. "Her faith, to which she converted, was at the core of her being."

Another of the Americans killed was Benjamin Blutstein, 25, of Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania, who was on a two-year program studying to become a teacher of Jewish studies, said Ted Bernstein, president of the United Jewish Community of Greater Harrisburg.

Two of the other victims were identified as American Marla Bennet, 24, and French citizen David Gritz, 24. The name of the seventh victim was not yet released.

Foreign students undeterred by terror blast The cafeteria where the bombing occurred was a gathering place for students of all backgrounds, and was located near the university's Rothberg International School. American Spencer Dew, 26, from Owensboro, Kentucky, who was lightly wounded by flying glass, said he had worried about such attacks in Israel, "but it didn't deter me from coming. I assume I'll come back next year."

Jessica Zabiello, 19, of Argentina, who began Hebrew studies at the university ten days ago, was unharmed. She told Ha'aretz that she called her mother in Buenos Aires to tell her she was okay, and her mother pleaded with her to come home. "If something is supposed to happen to me, then it'll happen. I feel safer here than in Argentina," she said.

"We all knew this was going on when we decided to come here," Carla Guvitz, 23, of Calgary, Canada told the Jerusalem Post. "We all expected that this could happen. But I guess I thought that the campus would be safe."

"One of the girls in our program is missing," said Daniel Farahan, 20, from Indiana, speaking on the phone to his family. "We were eating and then we left, and she was still there. I just left the group and then the bomb went off," he said, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The bombing occurred just days after the arrival in Israel of several of the 80 students participating in the Rothberg International School's one-year program, designed for students who have completed at least one year of studies at an accredited university or college. Family members of students flooded the New York offices of the American Friends of the Hebrew University with calls of concern for the safety of their loved ones.

"The university is there, and we will continue to be available to students from any country who wish to study at Hebrew University," said Peter Willner, executive vice president of the organization.

"The building where the incident took place is literally and symbolically a site of peace and a meeting place for people of all countries," said Menahem Ben-Sasson, former Rector of the Hebrew University. "Whoever did this wanted to prevent discourse and dialogue."

"This attack is horrifying and mystifying," Willner added. "Not only are Arab Israeli students an important component of the student population, but many Arab employees work on campus. Hebrew University is one of the last islands of sanity in Jerusalem. This is an attack on all civilization."

Ellis Shuman Israelinsider

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