Slain Student's Dad 'More Empty Than Furious'
The father of an American student killed in a terrorist explosion at Hebrew University said Friday he was still trying to absorb the loss of a son who had been "on a spiritual journey."
"I'm more empty than furious," Dr. Richard Blutstein of Harrisburg, Pa., the father of 25-year-old Benjamin Blutstein, said. "We haven't really discussed why. Right now, we're just taking it one step at a time."
Benjamin Blutstein was one of seven people, five of them Americans, killed when the bomb hidden in a bag ripped through a cafeteria at the school in Jerusalem on Wednesday. More than 80 people were wounded.
Blutstein said his son had a keen interest in religion and music.
"He had some eclectic tastes," he said on NBC's Today show. "He was sort of on a spiritual journey and he was very serious about his music. He was supposed to come home yesterday."
Instead, his body was returned to the United States on Friday, and his funeral was scheduled for later in the day.
The young man, who lived in Susquehanna Township, Pa., was studying to become a teacher of Jewish studies and had been in Israel as part of a training program run jointly by Hebrew University and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.
The parents of another American killed in the blast, 24-year-old Marla Bennett of San Diego, said she usually called to reassure them within minutes of previous explosions in Jerusalem.
Michael and Linda Bennett had hoped after they hadn't heard from her Wednesday "that it didn't happen, that she had somehow survived, that maybe she was unconscious somewhere on an operating table," family spokesman Norman Greene said Thursday. "But it wasn't meant to be."
Bennett, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, was also in the Hebrew University-Pardes Institute joint program, said Greene, co-publisher of the San Diego Jewish Press Heritage newspaper. Afterward, she hoped to perhaps become principal of a religious school.
Bennett's love of Israel and concern for its future kept her there despite her fears of terror attacks, she wrote in a column for the Press Heritage in May.
"There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now," she explained. "I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival."
A third American victim, Janis Ruth Coulter, 36, was an assistant director of graduate studies for the university's Rothberg International School, based in New York. She had been escorting American students when the attack happened.
Amy Sugin, Coulter's boss, said she had expressed some apprehension about traveling to Israel but had sounded "ebullient" in a phone call after she arrived.
A fourth American victim, David Gritz, 24, of Peru, Mass., held dual American-French citizenship. Gritz grew up in Paris, but spent his summers at his parents' house in the small town of Peru in the Berkshires. Friends said he was to begin a graduate course in Jewish thought.
"It's a very sad thing," said longtime family friend Nancy Kreger. "He was a great kid." She added that he wasn't even supposed to be there because his classes didn't start until Thursday.
The fifth victim, Dina Carter, 37, also had Israeli citizenship. She was laid to rest in Israel.
U.S. officials were not able to locate her parents in North Carolina until Friday, and no relatives from the United States were at her burial.
Her father, Larry Carter, 64, a retired veterinarian, said after she left for Israel 12 years ago, she never contacted him, her mother or an older sister.
"We are at somewhat of a loss to know why," he said in a telephone interview from Greensboro. "Once she did immigrate and did convert it was like she started her separate life."
He said she became interested in Judaism while studying at Duke University in the mid-1980s. "Beyond that I really don't know what prompted it. It was so long ago," he said.
The family had argued over her decision to convert and the move to Israel.
"But like any family, we worked through that and thought that everything was OK," he said.
His last contact with his daughter was in a phone call, which he described as pleasant, from California, before she flew to Israel in 1990.