What do you say to a terror survivor or a hero?

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by — Posted in From the field, Israel

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

At Texas A&M University there is a tradition. Well, there are many traditions, but the one I am thinking of is called Muster. On April 21 every year, current and former students gather at the school and in cities around the world to remember those fellow Aggies who have died in the last year.

A roll call of the dead is read. For every name read out, at least one living one if not all present call out “here” in the stead of deceased. The dead are counted among us even though they have gone on before us.

Today I went to a memorial service for a sister in Christ I never met. Kristine Luken, a Christian visiting Israel in 2010, was murdered in the Jerusalem forest. She was on a hike with a Jewish friend, Kay Wilson, when they were set upon by Arab men looking to kill Jews. The Jew survived. She survived with the help of an Muslim Arab surgeon. (Watch The Idiot’s Guide To Surviving A Machete Attack)

I was at the memorial service as a representative of Christ Church Jerusalem, but I would have attended any way as a way to say “here” for Kristine Luken’s name on the roll call.

A friend of mine who knows Kay Wilson didn’t attend, to my surprise. “I know her, but we’re not best friends,” she said in her defense. I didn’t realize how angry it made me until I came home.

You don’t have to be best friends to mourn with someone. You just have to be human.

I came home heavy with thoughts and questions and regret for not having said something to Kay. What do you tell someone who endured, survived 13 stabs in her body then heard her friend die next to her? All I could do was be present at the memorial, to remember somebody I did not know, to hear again Kay’s pain, to listen to that pain played by her on the piano in an arrangement of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which she said helped her trudge her broken body almost a mile so that her body would be found. She found help instead.

As if a memorial service for a Christian worker killed by terrorists didn’t hit close enough to home, it was announced in the service that a terrorist attack had just happened deep in west Jerusalem. A 21-year-old Arab man from east Jerusalem rammed his car into a fully-occupied bus stop. He was shot dead before he could come out with an ax, found in his car. Fourteen people, including a toddler, were injured.

A colleague commented at the young age of the attacker. He was young, but not as young as some of the other recent attackers, boys as young as 13 with the strengthen of mind to thrust a knife into another human being.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that these attackers are acting out of despair at the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week Israel customs officers discovered 4,000 dolls of a rock-thrower. That’s right. A children’s toy of a figure masked by a keffiyeh holding a rock. The scarf said “Jerusalem is ours” and “Jerusalem we are coming,” according to the Times of Israel.

So is it despair or is it manipulation?

Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” To me this is less about what is taught and more about when it is taught. Jesus says that we must be as little children in our trust.

Have you seen what trusting Palestinian children are taught? Go to PalWatch.org and watch some Palestinian children’s programming. Or read how teachers and parents tell children that they’ll garner praise if they die a martyr. Nevermind the lies told to adult Palestinians.

Still, there are young Arabs who have dared to defy the story line of hate. One of these is Mohammed Zoabi, a Muslim Arab from Nazareth. In 2014, during the conflict with Gaza and when 3 Israeli teens were kidnapped, Zoabi posted a a YouTube video in which he called for the release of the three teens. Zoabi, who proudly stretched out an Israel flag, also told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to not negotiate with Palestinian terrorists. As you’ve probably guessed, young Mohammed’s life was threatened.

It was Kay Wilson who gave Zoabi shelter and cover in Israel before he fled to the United States for a time. “I helped him because I know from the machete scars on my own back that death threats should always be taken seriously,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I helped him because, like me, he is a human being.”

Zoabi was at the memorial service today. I got to see one of my Israeli heros in the flesh, but I couldn’t go up to him and thank him. I didn’t know what to say.

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