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Remembering David Applebaum

Remembering David Applebaum

I'm reeling from the pain and the emptiness. Something feels wrenched out of my chest.

by Dr. Joe Djemal

In 1988, I first met Dr. David Applebaum, who was murdered in last week's Hillel Cafe bombing, along with his daughter, Nava, the night before her wedding. I met David at a party celebrating the birth of a future neighbor's child. My family had not moved in yet, having arrived in Israel a few months earlier. At that time our nuclear family consisted of my wife Karen and son Zaki. On hearing that Karen and I were both practicing family doctors, David started outlining his vision of urgent care centers. Although I could not figure him out, his vision was infectious. I knew I liked him.

The following year, with Karen somewhat concerned about the investment required -- both financially and the long hours involved -- we joined David's fledgling private emergency clinic, Terem. We were then six partners.

In those days I would work three evenings a week till midnight (or later), speaking, breathing and living Terem. I would confer with David at least five times a day. I would wake up remembering what I didn't tell him late the night before. I admired him so much. I could not comprehend how one person could do so much.

His family, too, was an inspiration, a model of education and strength. David was, in many ways, a role model for me -- an inspiring combination of cutting edge medicine, thrilling entrepreneurialism, commitment to Jewish observance, doer of good deeds, and a lover of the Land of Israel.

As Terem grew, the responsibility grew. As usual, David remained calm throughout, always finding time to speak and solve problems, many of which were of a personal nature. The more the demands on him grew, the more energy he would find. Some two years ago a young child became ill with leukemia and David spent hours everyday for many months helping with chemotherapy, and not least providing emotional support to the young parents.

There were a myriad of similar situations in which David became very involved. He would not accept defeat at any stage and invariably gave more strength, refusing to be disheartened. The medical outcomes were undoubtedly better than could be expected without his interventions. The human outcomes were of trust, hope and confidence -- despite desperate realities.

The day after the funeral I was working in my clinic in Maale Adumim and was surprised when, in the middle of a consultation, a young Russian patient expressed her sadness. She told me how, 11 years earlier, their family received beautiful fruit baskets from the Applebaums. These were delivered by David's sons, Natan and Yitzhak, to their then home in Jerusalem. Due to the Applebaum's modesty, most of these acts of kindness will be remembered only by those directly touched by them, and as the days go by, more and more are coming to light.

We are facing an irreconcilable loss. A light has gone out of our world. How will we cope without him?

I can just imagine his unsentimental answer to me: "C'mon Joe, it can be done. Let's get on with it."

We should let David's way of doing things rub off on us.

Let's get on with it.

Published: September 14, 2003


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Visitor Comments: 14

(14) RICHARD FREER, August 15, 2004 12:00 AM

LEST WE FORGET

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(13) Ivon, January 7, 2004 12:00 AM

May the Lord strengthen Israel through this time

It is so unfortunate to read news as these, Dr. Applebaun's death causes my heart to ache in amazement at how someone could consider the gift of their own life and others so poorly. But I do know the God of Israel never sleeps and one day He will bring justice to his people.

(12) Marilyn Stahl, September 20, 2003 12:00 AM

Moving, inspirational, and energizing

Despite the tragedy one has to be moved and encouraged to learn from this great man. To do for others,to be modest in one's life, and to always keep going and trying would be an elevation to Dr. Applebaum's soul.

(11) Anonymous, September 16, 2003 12:00 AM

What a loss

The end of days must really be in sight, otherwise why would such an "inexplainable" thing happen?

(10) Paul E. Slater, MD, September 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Dr. Applebaum, the Brisker

At David's funeral, Debra's father, Rabbi Spero, said that his son-in-law was 'a Brisker at heart.' About 20 years ago, before it was so fashionable, a bus exploded late one morning near Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Driving home from Hadassah-Ein Kerem, I was one of the first on the scene. Many passengers were horribly injured, and when I finally got home, I was bloodied and shaken. Ambulances were starting to line up, but the only Magen David Adom doctor was herself overwhelmed by the carnage and was unable to organize the rescue and evacuation efforts. Soon more experienced doctors arrived, several on the run from nearby Shaare Zedek, but not David, who was then head of MDA’s intensive care ambulance service. Several days later, I met David and expressed my disappointment at not seeing him at the scene of the explosion that awful morning. 'You were sorely needed,' I admonished him. Always my teacher, although several years younger than me, David put his arm around my shoulder and said, 'Paul, you have no idea how much I wanted to be there with you, but the halacha on this point is very clear: if you are caring for a critically ill person, you are not permitted to leave him to care for someone else, or even to care for many others, until you have turned over your first patient to someone at least as competent as yourself. At the moment of the bus explosion, I was taking a man with a complicated heart attack to Hadassah on Mt. Scopus. Although I was notified of the explosion immediately, 15 long minutes went by until I was able to transfer my patient into the hands of a competent intensive care resident. By then, the evacuation of the injured on Mt. Herzl was over, and I could only return to headquarters in Romema to debrief my staff.' That was Dr. David Applebaum, the Brisker. May he and Naava rest in eternal peace, and may G-d avenge their blood in our time.
Paul E. Slater, MD
Jerusalem

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