While outside the Jewish community, and not having the benefit of the support that entails, Kathleen Luken has developed a deeper appreciation for and connection to Israel and the Jewish people. Her sister, Kristine, was murdered because the terrorists thought she was a Jew.
"The history of persecution of the Jewish people is unfathomable. But God loves His people and has always saved a remnant," Kathleen says. "This phrase is reiterated throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Jews are His 'chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' [1 Pet. 2:9]. Honoring and remembering terror victims yearly is remarkable. This creates a shared experience, a powerful way to grieve and remember together."
How should Israel acknowledge Kristine, and other non-Israelis murdered through terror in Israel, and specifically Christians like Kristine who was in Israel not as a bystander, but because of her love for Israel?
"Expanding the Memorial Day commemoration in Israel to include, honor and recognize all [non-Israeli] victims of terror is important," Kathleen says. "For Christians, specifically, Israel is like an adopted home of sorts. We pour our prayers and support for Israel on many levels. It would be honoring to remember ones such as my sister, who lost her life while visiting Israel."
"How has Kristine's murder changed you?" I asked Kathleen. She responded:
"I feel robbed. I have heart scars that God is turning into a testimony of His love and faithfulness. My heart was shattered in a million pieces. I am comforted by Psalm 34:18: 'The Lord is close to those of a broken heart ...' He has and is continuing to put me back together and make something beautiful out of the ashes. I had to fight from getting lost in the loss. I had to press in and lean into God and His promises. I had to believe there were good days ahead and that God promises to use all that I had been through and work it out for my good.
"It has been a very lonely, difficult journey that I was thrust into without a choice. There are no blueprints on how to navigate grief. I wasn't prepared, as silly as that sounds. I had to traverse loss and grief for the first time as I lost my identical twin sister.
"The place and manner of her passing made it exponentially more difficult and complicated. I was constantly reminded that I had to keep moving and not sit down. Psalm 23:4 often came to my mind: 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' The key word being 'through.' I had to keep walking and not sit down in sadness. Although I did do that for quite a while, I knew I could not stay that way.
"I pray my story encourages and blesses others and that others see that 'with God all things are possible.' He has restored my hope. Hope has arisen from the ashes. He is my hope! The questions of 'Why, God?' were endless and eventually turned into a silent surrender. I had to trust Him. There was no place to turn but to Him. He has brought me through the dark days into the light of His loving embrace. He is writing a new chapter and He will use this tragedy and my pain to honor and glorify Him. I may not see it yet, but I know He will."
How should Israel publicly include and remember foreign citizens who are not Jewish, yet are murdered through terror in our land because of their, circumstantially, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because they purposefully stand with Israel and suffer the hatred for our people?
This Yom HaZikaron, let's be sure to pause an extra moment and earnestly remember these victims, like Kristine Luken, as well.
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