When my friend and I sat under a canopy of Jerusalem pines, she asked me the time. Never did I dream that 30 minutes later she would be dead. I had never contemplated that someone would try to brutally murder me. Who does? At only 46 years old, I had never given death a thought.
The half hour leading up to Kristine Luken’s execution (and the attempt on my life) was a madness so debilitating that even the moments necessary for preparing myself for death were strangled by the dread of the manner of it.
On my knees bound, gagged and held captive by moral depravity in the Jerusalem Forest seven years ago, I looked up to heaven and moments later felt the serrated machete tear my flesh. Simultaneously, I witnessed the unthinkable: an innocent woman murdered before my eyes by two immoral, nefarious, hateful psychopaths who murdered with such obscene banality that they could hold a machete in one hand and a Marlboro in the other.
Let me tell you what I did and didn’t think, what I saw and didn’t see during that eternal moment that, unlike other events, cannot be routinely processed like other memories.
When the Angel of Death was beckoning, it never crossed my mind that I had not bought a house or gotten married or had kids or held a high-class career or made a bunch of money. Not for a fleeting moment was I regretful that I had always and only “excelled at average,” and bumbled through life not knowing what I really wanted to do until I was approaching 40.
In some respects, the prospect of death was disappointingly underwhelming. I envy those with near-death experiences who see a light, who see God, who have their lives flash before them, and who feel warm and peaceful. Concerning the mysteries of the World to Come, I had only a dull sense that the Master of the Universe was inherently good and raging at the evil of Adam.
But neither my lack of personal career and family aspirations, nor thoughts of God, was what for the most part occupied my mind.
What did was this:
I was thinking of the people I loved. The grief that I would never see them again was so searing that it competed with the machete ripping my skin. Never again would I embrace them or even hear their voices. I had not made the most of every moment. It was too late to correct anything I had said, or left unsaid. Gone forever were the opportunities to correct the moments when I did not extend kindness, sacrifice my time and think of those I loved before myself. I am often emotionally lazy in relationships; my being right had frequently superseded being kind.
After the attack by the Palestinian terrorists — now jailed in Israel — hundreds of Jews, Arabs and Christians sent me letters, for which I shall be forever grateful. People had taken the time to go out, choose a card, write their good wishes, go to the post office, wait in line and send it off. I had no idea how strengthening such kindness would prove to be, and I suspect neither did they.
In my experience, time does not heal. Time does not lead me to an upward turn, a working through, and finally, acceptance and hope. Unable to cry at the evil done to me, for the past few years I was truly worried that I was becoming a psychopath. Then I grew to understand that time does not heal, and evil does not make me cry. It is kindness that makes me weep.
I swear by the wisdom of the Talmud that says, “He who is merciful to the wicked, will be wicked to the merciful.” Raging at those who murder and maim is one thing, but being unkind toward those in our own communities and families because of political differences is a tragedy. I recognize that sometimes it is impossible to reconcile personal differences. However, the arena in which we conduct those differences can still be one of dignity, self-restraint and kindness.
Trust me, no matter how convinced and passionate you or I may be about our political persuasions, it is good to remember that our opinions are never worth more than our friends and families with whom we may disagree.
I learned that as I lay dying.
KAY WILSON is a British-born Israeli tour guide, cartoonist, musician, educator and survivor of a brutal 2010 Palestinian terrorist attack.
Toward a Radical Middle