In August of 2002, less than 24 hours after hearing about the death of a dear friend, Marla Ann Bennett, I wrote a column in a prominent British newspaper about the world’s loss. Marla was one of a number of people killed in the bombing of the Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus Frank Sinatra cafeteria. A popular meeting point for the foreign students studying abroad, the dead also included Israelis (Jews and Arabs).
Less than 24 hours after watching the man responsible for the attack walk free from an Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Schalit exchange deal, another very dear of friend of mine in Califoria resent the article, along with his own comments. Below I have included both.
…to the memory of Marla Anna Bennett, z”l
I found an email that you sent out immediately following the tragic loss of Marla. It struck me because today we found out that her killers walked free.
On a day of such joy for the Jewish state and the Jewish people, I can’t help but feel somewhat deflated that real killers are going out into the world to live and celebrate.
I think I want to just thank you. Because you captured that moment that we all lost Marla and I’m blessed that I have that note from you to help me process everything that is going on now.
From: Roee Ruttenberg
Sent: Friday, August 02, 2002 6:42 AM
Subject: Remember Marla!
It has been said that “some things are true, whether you believe them or not.” It has been less than 24 hours since I discovered that my dear friend Marla was amongst the dead in Wednesday’s bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. And despite my unwillingness to accept it – I still feel her smile and warmth, and my first reaction was to call her mobile – it is true, whether I believe it or not.
Marla committed no crime. She bore no burden for which she deserved punishment. Rather she was a sweet and caring human being. (Her email address even contained the word “cheerful”.)
Did she – a 24-year old girl from San Diego, California, writing her final essay on religious law – pose a threat to Palestinian interests? Could it be that, as she and her friend Benjamin entered the university cafeteria for lunch, they had ulterior motives other than eating? Perhaps they were planning the next Israeli offensive?
Anyone who knew Marla (“Marls,” or “Marla-Bean” as I admiringly referred to her) knew that she posed no threat to anything around her. She was kind and gentle, a high standard to which others shall always compare themselves. She was soft. She was warm. She was brilliant. She was loved. And she is missed.
I wish no one the pain and shock that I went through in discovering that she had been killed. Scrolling down a list of names on an internet news website, I was absolutely gutted and deflated in seeing one I recognized. But it is a mere shadow of the anguish being felt by her family and close circle of friends as you read this. I hope you never endure even a minor percentage of that pain.
Marla was to fly back home to the U.S. on Friday. Instead, what remains of her will be flown home over the weekend. She is survived by a family that loved her, a community that adored her, and a world that needed her.
She leaves behind a void that no one shall ever fill. And that is true, whether you believe it or not.
CLARIFICATION: As of 1618GMT, there is a bit of confusion surrounding the names on the list. There were six men arrested with connection to the Hebrew University bombing. One of them, Mahmud Uda (numerous spellings) was the painter at the university who is believed to be the one who actually placed the bomb under the table. There was a person released named “Shadi Saleh Mahmud Uda,” arrested on 2 August 2002 (three days after the bombing), which seems to suggest it is the same person. But Uda (the painter) was 29 years old at the time (of his arrest), this Uda (the prisoner released) is listed as having been born in 1982. The discrepancy was pointed out to me by close friends of Marla’s who have spent days scouring through lists trying to figure out who is and isn’t being released, essentially reliving their trauma from nine years ago.