It is a strange thing for a non-Jewish, American Christian girl to
grow up in Israel, and even stranger for her to melt so well into the
fabric of Israeli society
by Baruch Maoz
Samuel stood on the small platform before the one thousand or so
who gathered on a sunny, breezy noon. He was dressed in a
stylish, black suit and a black-and-yellow tie. Obviously, he
did not have much experience in such events and was somewhat ill
at ease. "Before we begin, please turn off all mobile
telephones", he began with a note of authority, and then added
somewhat plaintively, "OK?" As the event unfolded, Samuel rose
to the occasion. He is a young man, in his early thirties.
Abigail Lytle was a few months past her 14th birthday. She went
to school on central Carmel in Haifa and was much loved by her
schoolmates and her peers for her infectious smile, her positive
attitude to life and her infectious good will toward others.
Later, the Principal of Abigail's school would bear witness to
her studiousness, her good discipline, and to her gracious and
It is a strange thing for a non-Jewish, American Christian girl
to grow up in Israel, and even stranger for her to melt so well
into the fabric of Israeli society. Abigail's parents were
missionaries, working in Israel.
On Wednesday, March 5th, Abigail was on her way home from school
on a warm afternoon. It had been a good day. Coffee houses were
abuzz with people, stores were busy and the weather promising to
be pleasant for some time. After over a week of heavy rain, this
was a welcome respite. Abigail climbed onto her bus. In less
than 10 minutes, she would be home, with her three brothers,
sister and parents.
A young man clambered onto the bus, paid the driver and began
making his way toward the inner part of the bus. He slipped his
hand into his pocket, pulled a trigger - and the bus exploded.
People a mile or more away, began to weep. The sound was all too
familiar. Fifteen died at once, with scores wounded on the bus
and in the area. Abigail Lytle was one of the dead.
It was now Sunday, March 9th. The funeral had been delayed so
that Abigail's grandparents and other members of the family could
fly in from America. Thousands now gathered from all over the
country: many members of the Jewish Christian congregations who
came to pay their respects and share the pain of a
fellow-suffering family; Government and municipal
representatives, Abigail's teachers and class mates, and many
Samuel led the service. He spoke faith in a God who never errs
and whose love is sure. He spoke of the hope of the
resurrection. Christian songs in Hebrew rang through the air as
the American and Israeli flags, draping the little coffin, were
removed, folded and handed to the Mother, Heidi Lytle. Abigail's
body was laid to rest. Phillip spoke of his confidence in God
and Abigail's grandfather spoke, primarily to Phillip and Heidi
Lytle, offering them the comfort of shared grief and the truths
of the Gospel.
God was glorified in that funeral because the family chose not to
wallow in the mire of their terrible pain, but to lay the whole
weight of their sorrow on him who said, "I am the resurrection
and the life. He that believes in me will never die." Like
Abigail, they believed.
Senior Knesset Member, and Chairman of its most prestigious
Committee, that of Foreign and Security Affairs - Yuval Stenitz,
represented the Government. He commented that he had witnessed
this day more than the power of religion. He had seen the vigor
of faith. A TV reporter, hardened after having been assigned to
many a funeral (and Israel has many such these days) confessed
that he was deeply moved, even to tears, by what he had seen.
A week later, the Haifa municipality was still astir as officials
spoke of the amazing funeral. Unlike the darkness of despair
that characterizes a usual Jewish funeral, this funeral expressed
faith, hope, even joy in the midst of sorrow. The sense of
communal affection was also outstandingly uncommon to the average
Samuel omitted to mention a significant fact: he is an
Arab, pastoring a predominantly Jewish congregation,
burying an American Baptist child who was murdered because some
people have lost the ability to distinguish between right and
wrong as they vie for their national interests.