Comforting Victims of Islamic Terror around the World

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Thirteen years ago this week, Kristine Luken was murdered by Palestinian Arab Islamic terrorists while on a hike in the Judean mountains outside Jerusalem.   The terrorists were armed and ready to attack anyone. The murder was premeditated, but their victims were random. Kristine and my friend Tal Hartuv were attacked and repeatedly stabbed with long machetes. Kristine died on the spot. Tal miraculously survived.

The terrorists’ evil Islamic ideology allowed them to think that anyone who crossed their path was fair game, undoubtedly just by being there; that person was a “settler,” or “occupier,” a Zionist, or a Jew.  Any one of these made Kristine and Tal legitimate targets of their hatred.  Indeed, while she felt close to Israel and the Jewish people, Kristine was neither Israeli or Jewish: she was American, a Christian.

The week of the murderous attack, the Torah portion read in synagogues all over the world included Joseph reassuring his brothers’ guilt for having sold him into slavery by saying, “Indeed, that which you (men) intended for evil against me, God intended for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

Since then, Tal has become a good friend. While I never met Kristine, I feel like I knew her. Years later, I had the privilege of getting to know Kristine’s twin sister, Kathleen.  She’s shared intimate thoughts and concerns about how she’s managed all these years.   I have written and spoken extensively about Kristine and Kathleen. Kathleen and I have become good friends.

On a human level, it makes sense to be there for the family of a terror victim in Israel. Nationally, there’s a great support network to which Kathleen and her family are not connected. I think that’s a mistake because we have a mutual responsibility to one another.  It’s not Israel’s fault that Kristine was murdered.  That is exclusively on the terrorists and the evil ideology they represent. But Israel has the responsibility to widen its wings of comfort and solidarity to embrace families of victims who are neither Jewish nor Israeli.

That’s critical if only to provide comfort on a human level.

Recently, on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation, I have had the privilege to take this to the next level.   Recently, the bodies of two terror victims kidnapped from Israel on October 7 and murdered by Hamas in Gaza were found and brought back to Israel.  Like Kristine Luken, these men were not Israeli and were not Jewish.  They were Tanzanian agricultural students, specially picked to be part of a program that would train them to go home and establish deep roots in strengthening agriculture in their own communities.   Rather than completing their studies and returning to be the pillars of their country’s future, in whom many hopes and aspirations were placed, they were murdered just for having been in Israel.

Because of the relationship between the Genesis 123 Foundation and African Christian leaders that can only be attributed to divine appointment, I was able to connect with another friend, Bishop Daniel Ouma, through whom we, and by association with Israel, were able to comfort the families of these men.

I won’t say that the murder of Kristine, Clemence, and Joshua was something that God meant for good.  But I do see good coming out of it.  Not just friendships and comforting mourners but building lasting relations between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel.  This is important everywhere: in the US and in Tanzania.  It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility.  And I know that Bishop Ouma being there, being honored as if he were coming from Israel and asked to speak at Clemence’s funeral, made an important impact, first and foremost, in comforting the families.

I wish the circumstances were different, but even amid the aftermath of the evil inflicted by the terrorists, we have been able to do something good.

Last week, another version of “What man meant for evil, God meant for good” took place. Kathleen mentioned the idea of connecting me to her pastor, Pastor Kyle.   Mandated to build bridges between Jews and Christians, over and above my friend Kathleen’s offering to make the connection, of course, I said yes, even though I knew nothing about him or his church.   

What came out of it was a conversation that neither of us wanted to end and a meeting of the minds that we were being called to do something meaningful and impactful together.  It was also a pleasure.  Sometimes, you just meet someone and know that there’s a substantial connection.  This was one of those instances.  Of course, it was lost on none of us that none of this would have happened if Kathleen’s twin sister Kristine had not been murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists.  I’d have never met and become friends with her, and she’d have never introduced me to Pastor Kyle.  Who knows what God has planned for sure, but these are great blessings that have come out of a tragedy. A war against the same evil that those terrorists represent is a fitting way to bring things full circle.

Over the years, Kathleen has become closer to Israel and the Jewish people. In a sense, she’s carried the torch that her sister embraced. By becoming closer, she’s much more aware of things going on in Israel and attuned to current events that an average American Christian would not be. Recently, regarding the idea for another cease-fire in Gaza, she confided that the idea of letting convicted terrorists out of prison in order to secure the release of hostages troubled her.  Not that she didn’t want all the hostages to come home, but she understood the pain and anguish of the Israelis who were victims of these same terrorists now being released.   What if, she wondered, Israel was to release the terrorists who murdered her sister?

While it doesn’t make her Israeli or Jewish, now she understands more than most some of the troubling issues that surround this war and life in Israel in general. Maybe that’s another “good” thing that’s come out of Kristine’s murder.   

We pray there will be no more casualties, that the terrorists and their ideology will be defeated, and that Kathleen and her family, who have lived with the grief for 13 years, and the families of Clemence Mtenga and Joshua Mollel, will be comforted along amid their grief, and they will see good things in the future.

Photo Courtesy: Jonathan Feldstein

The beliefs in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes regularly for a variety of prominent Christian and conservative websites and is the host of Inspiration from Zion, a popular webinar series and podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].


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