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Sunday, September 14, 2003

The story of Momo

Jerusalem Post, via LittleGreenFootballs

Our heroes, and theirs, by Jon Medved

September 12, 2003

Tuesday night's terror struck close to home. The boom of the blast at Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim shook the windows of our house and left no doubt that we had been hit again this time in our own neighborhood. Our son Yossi was on the phone with his brother Momo, asking when he would be back so they could watch another episode on DVD of 24, the addictive US series about terrorism.

Momo was crossing Emek Refaim, which is two blocks from our house, and they both heard the blast. Momo, 16, a trained paramedic with Magen David Adom, took out the plastic gloves he keeps in his school backpack and began to run the block to the cafe, to help with the injured. Yossi ran out the door with my wife, Jane, to go get Momo.

Momo was one of the first to arrive at the scene. As he described it later, it was a scene straight out of Dante, or Eli Wiesel. Victims were screaming and strewn about. A group of bystanders was attempting to put out a fire that was consuming a man. Amputated legs and arms were lying in pools of blood. A man's head was in the middle of the street.

Momo acted according to the training he received this summer in a course designed to teach him how to handle these kinds of events. As soon as the lead ambulance arrived he was told whom to evacuate, and he helped carry the injured on stretchers. Within 10 minutes it was over, and the amazing Israeli emergency medical teams had again acted with alacrity and professionalism. Momo's mother and brother found him covered with victims' blood and walked him home.

I was in the office when the blast hit, frantic with worry because I could not find anyone by phone. Finally I got a call from Yossi telling me that our family was okay and that we would meet at home.

GETTING HOME and seeing your son's clothes splattered with blood from a terror attack is a parental experience I will not forget. The relief of seeing Momo unhurt mixed with the pain, outrage and grief of an attack so close to home. Momo showered, and together we watched on TV the surreal scenes of our amazing and beautiful neighborhood hit, hurt and bleeding.

Momo was curled up with his dog, Lucy, hugging her and trying to regain some semblance of normalcy. A 16-year-old boy, having done his heroic work and seen things no one should ever see, tried to return to what was left of his adolescence.

We watched the scenes of jubilation in Gaza, with thousands of Palestinians taking to the streets in spontaneous celebration, delirious with joy at the "quality" attacks. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and others praised the "bravery" of the suicide bombers. Yassin mentioned the "great" Abu Shanab, "engineer" of dozens of Israeli deaths, whose own death had now been avenged.

I was struck by the contrast between the two societies.

Our heroes were out on Emek Refaim and at the bus stop at Tzrifim, practicing emergency medicine, fighting to save lives, reduce casualties. Their heroes were sowing death and destruction, their engineering was the science of terror.

Next morning, as the bright Jerusalem sun came up again over our neighborhood, most of the outward signs of destruction had been washed away. Despite the continued terror alerts and torrent of news about the attacks the day before, the children needed to go to school. We needed to get on with our lives. But the news contained more bitter tidings that took your breath away.

Among the dead in the cafe blast were David Applebaum and his daughter Nava. Nava was due to be married Wednesday night in a joyous wedding with 500 guests. David was a doctor of emergency medicine, a fixture in Jerusalem's medical scene, having treated hundreds of terror victims. He was the founder of Terem, Jerusalem's private emergency medical clinic, and my best friend's partner. He was a learned man, a kind man, a tzaddik. He was a true hero of Jerusalem.

I let Momo sleep in that morning. I had tried to wake him, but he said he needed more sleep. His teacher called to say he had heard from Momo's friends that Momo had had a "tough night." He suggested that after Wednesday's funeral for Dr. Applebaum and his daughter I take him to school, so he could be with his friends and talk about what happened. My son and his friends are true heroes of Jerusalem.
The writer is a venture capitalist living in Jerusalem.