This week marked the 10th yahrzeit of Dr. David Applebaum of blessed memory. We
should all pause and remember how he was murdered by terrorists in Jerusalem,
along with his beautiful daughter Nava, on the eve of her wedding.
teacher of creative writing, one of the exercises I often give my students is to
write a brief description of a person they have met, maybe only briefly, but
whom they will never forget. If I were to do the exercise myself, I think David
would be that person.
But perhaps my reasons are different from those of
the many people who have written about him until now.
His was a famous
name in Jerusalem. He headed the emergency room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center,
where I worked as press officer for 12 years. His portrait still adorns the
entrance to the emergency room. His expertise in this field cut down waiting
time for patients by 60 percent when he took it over, creating a computerized
information system, and he established the Terem urgent care clinics in
Jerusalem. No matter how busy he was, he was always totally approachable, warm
and friendly, making you feel you were the most important person for him at that
His expertise was valued all over the world, and the day before
his murder he was in New York lecturing on “Practical Aspects of Managing the
Medical Response to Terror.” He also had found time for many years to teach a
class in Jewish Law at Midreshet Moriah, a girls’ seminary in Jerusalem, and was
a brilliant and beloved teacher.
Raised in Detroit and educated in
Cleveland, he had struggled in his youth over whether to become a Rosh Yeshiva,
a practising rabbi or a physician. He chose the latter, but remained a haredi
Jew who continued to study Torah his whole life.
David’s son Natan said
that his father was one of the 36 righteous people in the world (Jewish
tradition teaches that this is the number living at any one time), and I believe
him. His own life was devoted to saving others.
Which brings me to my own
special memory. About 22 years ago there was another terror attack on
Jerusalem’s King George Avenue. The gunmen were holed up in a sports store near
the corner of Jaffa Road, firing randomly into the street. I happened to be
there, and with dozens of others was huddled in a shop doorway, shaking and
terrified. Then I saw David rush into the middle of the street to tend the
wounded, ignoring the danger to his own life. The memory of this heroic act has
never left me. When I asked him how it was possible to be so brave in the midst
of a terror attack, he just smiled and said modestly: “I didn’t think about it.
It was my duty.”
Now 10 years have elapsed since his death. Seven people
died at that popular Café Hillel on that fateful night, and tragically there
have been many deaths from terror since then. All of the victims were a world to
those who loved them. David gave so much to his patients, treating Arabs and
Jews and everyone who needed him. He had so much more to give, and we are all
diminished by his death. May his soul be for a blessing.
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