Five years later: Remembering Abigail Litle, victim of hate, victor in faith

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Five years ago, on the afternoon of March 5, 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber stepped onto a city bus in Haifa, Israel, and detonated the shrapnel-laden bomb strapped to his body. 17 people were killed by the explosion, 53 were wounded. This was a bus filled with young people. Of the 17 fatalities, 9 were under 18, and only two were over the age of 27.

I knew one of the young people killed on that bus, 14-year-old Abigail Litle, the daughter of dear friends of mine from college. Here's an excerpt of something I wrote shortly after the attack:

Just one week earlier Abigail and Juval [Mendelevich] had gone on their first field trip with their school's "Children Teaching Children" program, designed to bring Arab and Jewish teenagers together, in hopes of tearing down the wall of prejudice between the two communities. At an Arab-Israeli school, Abigail befriended an Arab girl. They were to meet again the following Monday.

But a hate-filled murderer got on the bus that Juval and Abigail were riding. Right after Juval's dad heard his son say, "I love you," Mahmoud Hamdan Kawasme detonated an explosive package filled with nails, killing 16 innocents and maiming many more. Mahmoud left behind a note praising the 9/11 attacks. Later that week, Mahmoud's mother threw a party celebrating his "martyrdom" and told the press she was proud of her son.

Abigail's parents are friends of mine from college. Phil and Heidi Litle were three and two years ahead of me at MIT, respectively. Phil and Heidi are possessed of a deep and abiding Christian faith, and they influenced a generation of Christians at MIT to pursue a closer walk with Jesus. They first came to Israel when Abigail was a baby and her older brother Josiah was a toddler, so that Phil could pursue a graduate degree at Technion, Israel's most prestigious engineering school. They fell in love with Israel and its people, and so they stayed and had three more children there. Phil took a position as an administrator with the Baptist denomination, serving the small evangelical Christian community in the country. The Litles worship as part of a congregation led by an Israeli Arab, side by side with Jewish, Arab, and Gentile followers of Jesus.

Abigail had all the hopes and dreams of a typical American 14 year old. She wasn't some agent of "the Zionist entity" seeking to "oppress" the Palestinians. She was a bridge across ethnic and religious divides. She saw people as individuals, not as racial stereotypes. And two weeks ago, she was murdered, she and Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, by a Palestinian who had been indoctrinated by official Palestinian media and by official Palestinian schools to believe that killing Jews is honorable and blessed by God. Abigail's life was gone in an instant.

On this fifth anniversary of her death, I ask you to join me in remembering her life, in celebrating her victorious faith in Christ, in praying for her family, and in recommitting to the long struggle against terrorism. Here are links to some articles about her and about the terrorist attack.

A month after the bombing, Abigail's father wrote a letter about Abigail's life and character, about the events of March 5, and about her funeral.

A couple of weeks after the bombing, I wrote the piece excerpted above about the bombing and the false parallels being drawn between Abigail Litle and Rachel Corrie. Corrie died defending tunnels that Palestinian terrorists used to smuggle weapons into Israel.

This blog entry, from a year later, includes a description by Abigail's father of the first anniversary memorials and has links to an account of Abigail's faith and an editorial by the spokesman for Israel's Chicago consulate.

On the third anniversary of the bombing, Angela Bertz remembered the nine children killed on that bus in light of the Academy Awards' celebration of Palestinian terrorism:

This year, to the horror of anyone with a moral conscience, the movie "Paradise Now" was rewarded with an award by the Golden Globes. This abhorrent movie attempts, with a somewhat warped mixture of humour and mawkish sentiments, to turn mass murderers into the same breathing, caring individuals as their intended victims.

It follows the trail of 2 young Palestinian men, not much older than the victims of the #37 bus, culminating in one of the mass murderers detonating an explosive belt on a crowded Tel Aviv bus.

It seems that Palestinian mass murder is not only popcorn flavour of the month with the Golden Globes, but with the Academy Awards looming, this horrific epic to nothing more than Palestinian terrorism is about to come up trumps again.

One can only look in amazement as this respectable organization will read out the names of this year's nominations, which include "Paradise Now". This is tantamount to declaring that the event of 3 years ago and the murder of 9 innocent children (+ eight more innocent people) at the hands of a Palestinian homicide bomber, is of no more consequence than the death of a couple of luckless cows who were killed to provide the hotdogs for anyone who considers this a movie of any merit.

The Academy, if it had any moral fiber, would throw out this nomination. The mass murderers fulfilled their senseless ambition in life when they murdered these innocent children and many other innocent victims. They will no doubt be a light to their non-existent nation of Palestine, shining brightly under some street sign in Gaza named after them, or grinning from the pages of a Palestinian textbook, who will revere them as heroes for the next generation of Palestinian children who long to emulate them. Their mothers, like that of the 37 bus bomber will talk with pride of their child's deed.

The children on the #37 bus, who never had the chance to fulfill their ambitions in life, which certainly never included mass-murder, are the real stars. Their light will shine brighter than any Golden Globe or Oscar, in the memories of not only all those that knew and loved them personally, but to everyone who has had the privilege of knowing them in some small way through websites dedicated to their memory.

Just after the second anniversary, Deroy Murdock wrote about the importance of the language we use in talking about terrorism, terrorists and their victims. (Emphasis added.)

When speaking about those who are killed by terrorists, be specific, name them, and tell us about them. Humanize these individuals. They are more than just statistics or stick figures.

I have written 18 articles and produced a Web page, HUSSEINandTERROR.com, to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorism....

To show that Saddam Hussein's support of terrorism cost American lives, I remind people about the aid and comfort he gave to terrorism master Abu Nidal. Among Abu Nidal's victims in the 1985 bombing of Rome's airport was John Buonocore, a 20-year-old exchange student from Delaware. Palestinian terrorists fatally shot Buonocore in the back as he checked in for his flight. He was heading home after Christmas to celebrate his father's 50th birthday.

In another example, those killed by Palestinian homicide bombers subsidized by Saddam Hussein were not all Israeli, which would have been unacceptable enough. Among the 12 or more Americans killed by those Baathist-funded murderers was Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old daughter of a Baptist minister. She was blown away aboard a bus in Haifa on March 5, 2003. Her killer's family got a check for $25,000 courtesy of Saddam Hussein as a bonus for their son's "martyrdom."

Is all of this designed to press emotional buttons? You bet it is. Americans must remain committed -- intellectually and emotionally -- to this struggle. There are many ways to engage the American people. No one should hesitate to remind Americans that terrorism kills our countrymen -- at home and abroad -- and that those whom militant Islam demolishes include promising young people with bright futures, big smiles, and, now, six feet of soil between them and their dreams.

Never forget.

RELATED: The mother of Abigail Litle's murderer threw a party in her son's honor a few days after the killing. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz asks how we fight a culture where mothers urge their sons to prefer martyrdom to life.

"We are going to win, because they love life and we love death," said Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. He has also said: "[E]ach of us lives his days and nights hoping more than anything to be killed for the sake of Allah." Shortly after 9/11, Osama bin Laden told a reporter: "We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us."

"The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death," explained Afghani al Qaeda operative Maulana Inyadullah....

How should Western democracies fight against an enemy whose leaders preach a preference for death?...

The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable -- as the terrorists well understand.

We need new rules, strategies and tactics to deal effectively and fairly with these dangerous new realities....

(Thanks to Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton for calling this article to my attention.)

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I've removed a couple of comments that were tangential to the topic of this post. They were headed toward a debate which would be fine elsewhere, but which would distract from the focus of this entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 5, 2008 5:37 PM.

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