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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Remembering Israel's campus blast

By Raffi Berg
BBC News Online, Jerusalem

Victim taken from the scene
People of different nationalities were among the dead and injured
Inna Zusman remembers the day her life changed forever.

It was 31 July, 2002, the end of the semester, and the Russian-born Hebrew University student had gone to the campus to hand in her end of year papers.

With time to spare, she stopped off at the university's Frank Sinatra cafeteria, situated on a tranquil plaza high on a hill on Mount Scopus.

But the tranquillity was shattered when a bomb hidden in a bag and left under a table in the canteen exploded, killing nine people and wounding dozens more.

"At that moment," said Inna, "my life turned 180 degrees".

One of the most badly injured victims, she spent the next month in a coma, hovering between life and death.

The bomb, which was packed with shrapnel, sent screws flying into her body, shattered her left arm, burnt her limbs and her lungs, and irreparably damaged her spinal chord.

Inna Zusman
Inna came close to death following the attack
A brilliant 22-year-old student reading computers and cognitive science, Inna is now confined to a wheelchair, paralysed from the waist down.

"I have to accept that this is a permanent change," she told me. "It's not as if some miracle will happen one day, that one day I will walk again.

"The attack not only hurt me but it also made me more hopeless about the peace process, because it shows how just a little group of people is enough to ruin so much."

'Attack on freedom'

Aside from its human toll, the bomb dealt a devastating blow to the cosmopolitan university's most cherished values.

"It was a very severe shock that the university was targeted," Hebrew University President Professor Menachem Magidor said.

"Those who did it sent a message, that they are against one of the most pluralistic, open, peace-loving institutions which exist in the Middle East. It was actually an attack on the free world, an attack on tolerance, an attack on diversity."

Itai Ravid
It has not affected the way I feel towards Arabs - good people exist everywhere
Itai Ravid
Diversity lies at the heart of the Hebrew University, a model of co-existence between Israeli, Arab and other students from around the world since it was founded in 1925.

But the bomb did not discriminate, and more than a dozen nationalities, including Arab students, were among its hundred or so casualties.

Nineteen-year-old student Rowan Harb missed the bomb by minutes. A Christian-Palestinian, she said the attack made her sympathise more with Israelis.

"I come from a family which has many kinds of friends, including Israelis. I feel pity for anyone who is targeted anywhere."

Seeking peace

Rowan is no stranger to violence - one brother was murdered by two Muslim friends for dating a Muslim girl, while another narrowly escaped a Palestinian bomb at a Tel Aviv nightclub in 2001.

"I lost a brother and I don't like this feeling that someone is missing in the family, on the Arab side or the Israeli side. I know what it is like to lose someone, so I feel more for them than people who have not experienced this," she said.

University canteen
The bomb was placed in a bag in the canteen
Israeli student, Itai Ravid, was in the canteen on that fateful day. He sat down with friends but moved to another table moments before the bomb exploded.

"This was the best decision we made in our lives," he said.

Itai, 26, escaped with a cut to his arm.

"Afterwards you are kind of happy that you were lucky and you see that its really small decisions which make the difference between whether you are alive or dead."

A law and communications student, Itai says the attack has not changed his views about peace.

"It has not affected the way I feel towards Arabs - I think good people exist everywhere, like those who kill are everywhere, on the Palestinian side, or on our side.

"I am a peace-seeker, my basic need is for peace. I want to have a normal life in this country and that has not changed since the attack.

"The fact that I was involved just makes me hate more those who planted the bomb, but that's about it."


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