I never met Marla Bennet but she has been a part of my life for the past 9 years.
On July 31st, 2002, a cellphone detonated a bomb hidden inside a backpack that was left in the cafeteria at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The blast wounded 80 and killed 5 Americans, including Marla Bennet, a 24 year-old San Diego native that had come to Jerusalem to pursue a Master’s degree.
I remember this attack very clearly for it was during my farewell lunch at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, where I had served as the Human Resources Director for 8 years. It was also just before I packed up my family and moved them to San Diego to serve as a shaliach (emissary) to the Jewish community. 12 days after Marla’s death, I lost my own father to cancer.
Arriving in San Diego during this tumultuous month was no easy task. It was during Yom Kippur of 2002 that I gave my first official speech to the community of Temple Emanuel and I said:
“Both of us, you as a community, and in my own family, have lost wonderful people in our lives and we will never be the same.”
At the end of the service, I was approached by Linda and Michael Bennet, Marla’s parents. 9 years have passed since I gave that speech and Linda, Michael and Marla continue to be a very important part of my life.
In the recent prisoner swap, 1,027 convicted terrorists for 1 Gilad Shalit, Marla’s murderer was set free. My heart went out to Linda and Michael, as well as the community in San Diego, as I wondered how they must be coping with this fact. And then I received an article. In a local San Diego paper, Linda explained that she supported the prisoner swap because it brought the Shalit family back together. I let out a huge sigh of relief and sat in awe, amazed by the size of this woman’s heart as she explained her support of the much-criticized prisoner swap.
May all of our hearts be one-tenth the size of Linda’s and Michael’s. Our thoughts and prayers will always be with you and with Marla.
Click here to read Linda’s amazing interview.