Terror's Defeat

The attempt to harm the spirit of the free man with a criminal terrorist attack at Hebrew University ten years ago failed miserably.

Ten years have passed since the criminal terror attack at Hebrew University, but the stones of the academic institution atop Mount Scopus are still wounded. Guards at the gates meticulously inspect every bag and case, and the myriad auditors of courses, who once filled the lecture halls and the many libraries on the campus, have still not returned. In spite of the efforts invested by administrators of this prestigious institution, there are many who are still afraid to enter its portals and study within.

It is therefore important for such persons to know that the terrorism that sought to desecrate the site has been roundly defeated. The attempt to harm the spirit of the free man - for which this mountain has been a constant city of refuge since 1925 - failed miserably. And as befits an academic institution, the terror was eradicated not by brute force or firepower, but by the strength of the human mind and soul.

The story of Ina Zussman, a student of computer science and cognition who was gravely wounded in the attack, which claimed the lives of nine people and injured 85, 14 of them seriously, demonstrates this. On that dreadful day 10 years ago, her luck was not with her. Ina lost consciousness and came to only a month later, at the beginning of September.

When she awoke, she heard for the first time a new name: Pierre Saban. Pierre, who after his retirement had decided to realize a dream and register for art studies at the university, was at the time of the explosion sitting at the table next to hers in the cafeteria. Following the explosion, he went from one victim to another, trying to find people who needed help, until he came upon Ina, who was unconscious and whose mouth was closed shut. Using a fork he found on the floor, Saban managed to pry open her mouth and resuscitate her.

In the meantime, Magen David Adom medics arrived and began treating the wounded. They placed Ina, whom they classified as being mortally wounded, at the side, near the corpses, in keeping with standard triage procedures in a multiple-injury event. Pierre did not relent; he pleaded with the medics not to give up on her, and to rush her to the hospital. In retrospect, this saved her life.

After Ina regained consciousness, Pierre would regularly arrive for visits at the hospital. Following her release, in a wheelchair, he continued to assist her, and helped her to return to a life that had drastically changed. Both of them returned to their studies, with Pierre keeping Ina company, driving her to school until she received a specially equipped car, and doing everything he could to make things easier for her. He helped her contend with all the institutional paperwork, accompanied her to the garage when her car needed service, and more than once washed her car himself. He and his wife Linda adopted Ina into their family on the holidays, and in general. "Pierre infused in me a renewed sense of security," she told me.

Each Thursday he would come to visit her with a big bouquet of flowers in hand, to celebrate life. Week after week, year after year, for six full years - until his unexpected death four years ago.

Last month, at a memorial service held to mark the passage of 10 years since the terror attack, Ina - today Ina Zussman-Masami - stood before the crowd and told the story of Pierre. In a hushed voice that seemed to gather into itself, she described how badly she felt his absence, and how much she missed him. She spoke modestly: She did not know that through the noble behavior and actions of Pierre Saban, terror had finally been vanquished on Mount Scopus. Not through flowery speeches, not through larger-than-life heroic actions, but through the everyday minutiae of simple human kindness.

Thanks to people like Pierre Saban and Ina Zussman-Masami, a decade after the terror attack, the stones are still wounded, but the rock into which the spirit of human freedom was poured, at Hebrew University, remains as stable as ever.

Yuval Elbashan is a senior lecturer in the law faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.