JERUSALEM – A day after a bombing that killed seven people, including five Americans, many U.S. students opened a new semester at Hebrew University saying they wouldn’t be driven away by the attack. But some were shaken enough to consider leaving.
Many of the foreign students had only recently arrived in Israel to begin Hebrew language classes at the university over the summer. On Thursday, as the shattered windows of the bombed-out cafeteria were being boarded over, classes began as scheduled.
“It hardened my resolve to stay here,” said Daniel Faraha, 20, from Carmel, Ind., who narrowly escaped the blast. The bombers, he said, “did this because they wanted us to run away.”
Lissi Young, 25, from Boston, left the cafeteria 30 minutes before the blast. She said that two of her friends, Marla Bennett, 24, and Benjamin Blutstein, 25, remained behind and died.
Young said she had been in the country over a year, and she hadn’t decided whether she would leave. “My family can’t sleep, they’re crying and calling me,” she said, sobbing. “I don’t know if its fair to do this to my family.”
In a tearful ceremony at Israel’s airport, caskets with the remains of Blutstein, of Susquehanna Township, Pa., and Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, who worked in New York City, were put aboard a plane for a flight to the United States. The flight arrived Friday morning in New York. The body of Bennett was to be flown home to San Diego on Saturday.
“I’m more empty than furious,” Dr. Richard Blutstein, Benjamin’s father, said on NBC’s “Today.” “We haven’t really discussed why. Right now, we’re just taking it one step at a time.”
Blutstein said his son was a very genuine person, with a keen interest in religion and music.
“He had some eclectic tastes. He was sort of on a spiritual journey and he was very serious about his music,” he said. “He was supposed to come home yesterday.”
Another American, Dina Carter, 37, who had Israeli citizenship, was buried in Jerusalem on Friday. Funeral arrangements for the fifth American, David Gritz, 24, who held French citizenship, were not known. Two Israelis killed in the attack were buried Thursday.
The Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus has about 500 foreign students at its international Rothberg School, and another 1,000 foreign students spread throughout its three campuses.
“We’re not going to let them win. We’re not going to let them scare us away,” said Catherine Cochinov, who arrived from Ottawa on Tuesday.
“I’m staying, I think all of us are staying,” Cochinov said, as she and fellow international students ate lunch in a dining area. Other students voiced their agreement. “If we felt strongly enough to come now, I don’t think this is going to be a deterrent,” she said.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen if more incidents happen on campus. I can’t say I’m staying no matter what.”
Cochinov said foreign students had felt that the campus, a mix of Arabs, Jews and international students, was a safe haven from Mideast violence.
Faraha said he left the cafeteria moments before the blast. “I saw a nightmare. I saw a girl my age, she’d just been killed. I saw someone close her eyes and pull a blanket over her body. People were screaming and crying.”
Faraha said his experience only made him more determined to stay.
Many students come to the university from Jewish communities overseas, spending time learning about Israel and their Jewish background. Others just come to study at the well-known institution.
Rebecca Casey, 20, from Albuquerque, N.M., said she came to show solidarity with Israelis, even though she wasn’t Jewish.
“Terror is an emotion, they try to scare you,” she said. “If we gave into that and didn’t continue on with school, we would let them win.”