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From the Valley of the Giants (Emek Refayim)
Cafe Hillel: The Aftermath
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel Insider
September 10, 2003

Instead of placing the ring on the finger of his beloved, 20 year old Hanan Sand reverently laid the gold band on the shrouded body of his fiance Nava Appelbaum,20, as she was buried this morning.

The guests who should have been getting ready to take part in the Appelbaum-Sand simcha tonight, rushed instead to attend the funerals of Nava and her American-born father Dr. David Appelbaum this morning--less than twelve hours after they were murdered as they stepped out of their car for a father/daughter coffee date the night before the wedding.

The depth of the tragedy is being felt today in ripples of pain that reverberate through the circles of people touched by the extraordinary doctor. And the Appelbaums were the first victims identified---five other families have also been ripped apart.

I had an early morning appointment today at the Terem Clinic just up the road--the handwritten English and Hebrew sign on the door simply said the clinic would be closed from so that staff could attend the funerals of clinic founder and director Dr. Appelbaum and his daughter. Nurses, doctors and medical receptionists walked about in stunned silence as they tried to contact patients and close down the clinic and organize carpools to the cemetery.

I walk down to Emek Refayim, just 10 minutes away, to make some kind of statement by meeting a friend for coffee. On the way down, the sounds of children singing waft out of a classroom at the middle school on the corner. Everyone in the neighborhood heard the horrific explosion, and everyone uses Emek Refayim on a daily basis.

The street has become filled with coffee bars and restaurants as an alternative to the downtown scene, which lost its cachet after a string of bomb attacks on Jaffa Road and the Ben Yehuda Mall.

Cafe Aroma, the place with the best coffee on the street--is closed. Aroma is notable for employing Arab cashiers and barristas who work alongside the Israelis and Russian immigrants.

The Coffee Mill, owned by American immigrants--also closed, with a handwritten sign expressing sorrow over the loss of friends and colleagues. Caffit--scene of an attempted terror attack last year thwarted by an alert waiter, is open. I choose to sit on the patio of the bakery next door to be more visible. Let the press see people patronizing the cafes..

Across the road and down a couple of short blocks, small groups gather in front of the remains of Cafe Hillel. Police, border patrol and IDF soldiers mill about as workers finish erecting grey scaffolding to shield the investigators inside. Friends stop to hug each other and some just stand mesmerized by the scene. A friend tells me she spent the night comforting a girlfriend who lives in a second floor apartment directly across from Cafe Hillel. The young woman had an unwanted birds-eye view of the devastation and carnage--images she'll never erase.

Several women come to quietly light memorial candles and offer prayers, while a group of older men debate political solutions. An American couple approach a police officer to ask about the fate of their car that had been parked across the street from the cafe last night. "Over in the pound in Talpiyot--if it's still alive," they are told.

Two young women are talking into their cellphones telling their friends how Avi had been found at Hadassah Hospital with glass shards in his hand: "He's pretty shaken up..."

Owners and workers in the small shops further up the street stand in their doorways worrying about how the attack will affect business. Security guards in front of the restaurants that are open try to look casual, and a smattering of "davka" customers are doing their best to act normal.

The images of young Arabs in Gaza gleefully celebrating the killings have been playing on TV since last night. Here on Emek Refayim there are no calls for revenge, no expressions of anger (Increasingly many here are questioning whether our reaction is "normal.")

Instead, there's just deep sadness and unfathomable pain over the loss of people like Dr. Appelbaum, who had just returned home from New York where he led a symposium on the second anniversary of 9/11 to teach terror-trauma procedures to medical professionals.