Sometimes the most important conversations between a father and child are the ones that have to be slipped in edgewise. David Applebaum's daughter Nava, 20, was to be married last Wednesday in Jerusalem. Applebaum, who was ordained as a rabbi before he opted for a medical career, had already gone to some lengths to ensure that Nava was properly launched in her new status, compiling a booklet for her of rabbinical sayings, family aphorisms and his own thoughts about relationships and marriage. But he was determined to fit in one more chat with his oldest girl before she stepped beneath the bridal huppah. He had said she was the only one of his six children to whom he had never had to raise his voice--the challenge now was getting a hearing in the midst of the prenuptial frenzy.
Achieving that ambition was further complicated by the fact that Applebaum, as a leading specialist in emergency response to terrorist attacks, was a man in great demand. Since immigrating to Israel from Cleveland, Ohio, two decades ago, he had established Jerusalem's first mobile intensive-care units and offered up a steady stream of efficiencies and innovations against the ever more frequent waves of carnage produced by suicide bombers. As the director of emergency medicine at Jerusalem's Shaare-Zedek hospital, Applebaum, 50, was known for his obsession with reducing patient waiting time, treating Palestinian and Israeli victims alike, having once performed emergency surgery in a Jerusalem street and being one of the first to arrive at the hospital after explosions. He was a comforting figure to ambulance drivers and paramedics, most of whom had trained with him. "He was everybody's parent, everybody's uncle," says longtime friend Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik of Chicago. It was this combination of eminence and accessibility that prompted New York University's Downtown Hospital to invite Applebaum to speak near ground zero the Monday before the Sept. 11 anniversary--and two days before Nava's wedding.
Nava urged him to go. "It's important that you represent Israel, but be sure to get back on time," she said. So Applebaum, who knew about getting to places fast, did some fancy scheduling: he would fly to New York City, give his talk--not a eulogy, but a chillingly practical step-by-step primer on emergency care after major bombings--jump on a plane back the same day with a few New York--based wedding guests and return in time to help with the final preparations.