Bombing Kills Hospital ER Chief and Daughter

In past, Dr. David Appelbaum, who moved to Israel from the U.S. some 20 years ago, often had been among the first to treat terror victims.

Nadav Shragai
Shoshana Kordova Haaretz Service, agencies
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Nadav Shragai
Shoshana Kordova Haaretz Service, agencies

The team of the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center was already used to many terror attacks, but Tuesday night's suicide bombing at Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim Street brought a new, horrific experience.

As the hospital's doctors and nurses waited to treat the wounded, they received word that the attack had killed the head of their emergency room, Dr. David Appelbaum.

Appelbaum, 50, had taken his daughter, Naava, 20, to the cafe on the eve of her wedding, which was to have taken place Wednesday night. Both were among the seven Israelis killed in the suicide bombing. Both were lain to rest in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Colleagues said Appelbaum, who moved to Israel from Cleveland, Ohio, some 20 years ago, had in the past often been among the first to reach and treat victims of terror attacks.

"He would appear at the site of every attack, volunteer, get in the ambulances to evacuate the injured to the emergency room," said Dr. Kobi Assaf, director of the emergency room at Hadassah Ein Karem hospital, also in Jerusalem.

"I recall how he was distressed by the injured, by what he had seen, but again and again, at night, he would be there. We have lost a dear good man."

Appelbaum's father-in-law Rabbi Shubert Spero, of the Young Israel of Cleveland congregation, eulogizing the slain physician and his daughter, told mourners Wednesday, "Can there be a greater tragedy?"

Noting how Naava had done National Service by aiding child cancer patients, Spero said, "The Jewish people has lost a devoted daughter, the nation of Israel has lost one of its proud, loyal and courageous sons. The world of Torah has lost a true Talmud Chochem (a brilliant student of Jewish sources), and the world of medicine has lost one of its most competent, one of its most creative practitioners."

Spero, who is turning to Applebaum's five surviving children, said "All of you have to grow up now, very quickly. There's no more time for childish things."

Appelbaum had just flown back to Israel after giving a talk at a New York University terrorism symposium marking the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hours after landing in Israel, Appelbaum met Naava, to impart some last-minute advice before her wedding.

As ambulances began delivering the wounded from the attack, Shaarei Tzedek hospital director Yonatan Halevy was wary. Appelbaum was usually the first to report to the hospital after a bombing. There was no sign of him.

"It was clear to me from very early on that David Appelbaum - when he didn't show up and I knew he was in Jerusalem and he hadn't called - that a terrible tragedy had occurred," Halevy said. "Confirmation of my suspicions came shortly."

Word that he was one of the victims came from a rescue worker who recognized him at the scene. The hospital staff had to cope with their own grief as they treated the wounded.

To understand the grief and pain "it was enough yesterday to look at the sorrowful faces of the emergency room workers while they were treating the wounded streaming into the hospital from the attack," Halevy said.

For his daughter's wedding, Appelbaum had prepared a book with sayings from family members and himself, biblical passages and marital advice.

Visiting the family before dawn Wednesday, Halevy leafed through the book Appelbaum would never give his daughter. "The fact that a man flies, three days before his daughter's wedding, to share this doctrine about preparing for a mass terror attack, which Jerusalem hospitals have unprecedented knowledge of, is an example of his combined outlook - complete dedication, to both work and the family," Halevy said.

Appelbaum was identified at the scene by one of his colleagues, Dr. Yitzhak Glick, from Efrat. Glick arrived at the site of the attack with his emergency team, in order to help with the evacuation of the wounded, and recognized Appelbaum almost at once.

A little before midnight the word began spreading through the corridors of Shaare Zedek. Doctors, nurses and staff members cried bitterly. Within minutes, Applebaum's children began arriving at the hospital, and later joined by his wife.

Appelbaum worked at Shaare Zedek for many years, but left several years ago in order to set up a center for emergency medicine in Jerusalem. He returned to the hospital to run the emergency room.

David and Nava Applebaum were lain to rest in Jerusalem Wednesday morning.