Posted on March 6, 2012 by Lauren Schuchart
Originally posted here:
Last Wednesday, my school held its annual Yom Iyyun Shel Chesed (Day of Kindness).
This special day is held in the memory of Marla Bennett and Ben Blutstein, z”l, who were killed in a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem in 2002.
Marla and Ben were both students at Pardes, pursuing their dreams of becoming Jewish day school educators. They were studying for their finals, in the crowded Frank Sinatra cafeteria at Hebrew University, when a bomb exploded, killing 9 and injuring 84.
This tragic event took place during the second intifada. From 2000-2005, there were frequent suicide bombings in Israel, even daily at times. Israelis remember this time as one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history.
The Yom Iyyun Shel Chesed began with learning, then continued with a breakfast, where we listened to presentations commemorating Ben & Marla’s lives.
While I felt deeply impacted by everything that was read, one piece stood out among the rest. It was an article that Marla wrote a few months before her death, in which she reflected on her time in Jerusalem. Here is an excerpt:
“As I look ahead to the next year and a half that I will spend in Israel, I feel excited, worried, but more than anything else, lucky. I am excited that I can spend another year and a half in a place that truly feels like home, a home in which I am surrounded by an amazing community of bright and interesting friends who constantly help me to question and define myself. I am worried for Israel—a historic moment this is, but also difficult and unpredictable. I feel lucky because the excitement always wins out over the worry…There is no other place in the world where I would rather be right now.”
I was struck by Marla’s candor and her optimism. I strongly identified with her reflections on Israel, her love for community, and her dreams for the future. I was inspired that she continued to follow her heart during such a trying and uncertain time.
I can’t imagine the pain that was felt by Ben & Marla’s families, loved ones, and the Pardes community after the tragedy. The following year, a few of their friends at Pardes created the Yom Iyyun Shel Chesed, as a way to honor their memories and do something that embodied their ideals and values of service and loving-kindness.
Ten years later, the Yom Iyyun Shel Chesed continues, and we spent our afternoons volunteering at different institutions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Not only do we remember Ben & Marla, but we are reminded that one can find light, even in the darkest of places.
Although never meeting them, it’s clear to me that Marla and Ben were two beautiful, unique souls, who walked through the world with curiosity, vibrancy, and passion. After hearing their stories, I am inspired to live each day to the fullest, as they did. And while their lives were ended much too short, their memories continue to add light to the Pardes community, to the Jewish people, and to our world.