FOUR HOURS OF
AN EXTRAORDINARY FAMILY
When Values Clash
EVENT TO HELP CHILDREN
(a sweet pastry) with neighbors in Hebron, a divided
aureen Bayer, 31, returned to Michigan six
Jewish-Arab city in the disputed territory known as the
months ago, but her heart is still in Haifa,
where she lived for more than a year. So
1101: whenever terrorism grips Israel, she grows
Abigail and the bomber got on the Egged bus at the same
stop. She was going to a late-afternoon Hebrew lesson.
angry about the senseless deaths and she fears for her
friends from Haifa University.
Reminiscing about her young friend, Bayer said: "I met
her. I touched her. I sat next to her and ate taco dip, and we
Even though she spent 13 months in Israel, Bayer didn't
know any of the victims in 29 months of Palestinian terror
both commented on how amazing it was to have store-
against the Jewish state — until March 5.
bought refried beans, since they're not normally available in
Then Mahmoud Hamdan Kwasma, a 20-year-old student
Abigail was buried in a plain wooden coffin.
at Hebron Polytechnic University, blew himself up on a
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer spoke at her funeral,
Haifa bus. Like so many Hamas disciples,
held in the Christian section of a small cemetery near the
his parents and others had taught him to
hate Jews and kill them to please Allah.
"She's a true bridge between our two countries, having
The blast he triggered killed at least 17
been born in the United States and now, in eternal rest in
Israelis. More than 50 were hurt in the
Israel," he said. "She's a true bridge between our faiths."
attack, which rocked an otherwise typical -
Philip Litle knew war is a breeding ground for tragedy,
weekday afternoon in the northern port
but never imagined his second-oldest child, a bright girl
city. Among the dead were teenagers, col-
lege students and soldiers.
who loved biology and environmental studies, would fall
prey. He told the Israel newsmagazine Israelinsider: "For
Bayer teaches Hebrew and advises the
Abigail, it was always that someone be valued as a person,
youth group at Congregation Shir Tikvah
not as an object defined by nationality"
in Troy. The budding journalist from
Hamtramck hopes to graduate next year
from Wayne State University in Detroit and make aliyah.
"The attack was on a bus line my friends and I traveled
hundreds of times, in an area we used to shop, eat and see
Abigail was the unofficial younger sister of a friend of
movies," she said.
Bayer's named Alex. He is a Haifa University student
"On that bus was someone I'd actually met."
who made aliyah Sept. 29, 2000 — when the
Bayer knew Abigail Litle, 14, a U.S. citizen
Palestinian uprising began. A Latvian orphan with
enrolled in the eighth grade at Haifa's Reali High
almost no family, he was distraught over Abigail's
death. "She is with God," he told Bayer. "It is the
. Palestinian-provoked terror has claimed at least
family who suffers."
759 Israelis and foreign civilians. The victims were
But Jews share a history and a heritage. So friends
people whose lives mattered. They bravely tried to
of terror victims also suffer, as do friends of the
Maureen Bayer friends. Said Bayer: "When a terrorist strikes, the
tough it out against Muslim militants bent on
expelling the Jews from their ancestral homeland.
pain goes far beyond the number of dead. It tran-
"Abigail was not another Jewish or Muslim vic-
scends bloodlines and direct lines of friendship. And
tim of this war," Bayer said, "but an American
when what you want most to do is wrap your arms
Christian for whom Israel is also the holy land."
around a friend and give him a hug, but the distance
Mature and caring, Abigail took part in Jewish-
that separates you won't allow that, the- pain travels
Arab school dialogue groups. Classmates called her
thousands of miles as well."
their guardian angel. Her parents rushed to
Philip Litle isn't opposed to peace talks but he con-
Rambam Hospital to look for their "wounded"
demns the terrorists who have hijacked Islam.
daughter. Instead, they found only her legs, identi- Abigail Litle
"What's the point of destroying the lives of civilian
fied by an ankle bracelet, a Christmas gift from
people if it really isn't going to change anything?" he
friends in America.
Bayer discovered Abigail's name by scanning an on-line
He aptly brands suicide bombings a "bankruptcy" of
list of the dead at 4:15 a.m. March 6. She feared a friend
Islamic culture and leadership. 'Any culture that deals with
'could be on it.
its problems by turning to violence and destruction of inno-
"The waiting is horrible," she said. "Not knowing seems
cent people on a bus," he said, "is in need of correction."
like the worst thing that can possibly happen. There's noth-
Maureen Bayer favors a Palestinian state beside a secure
ing to do but keep trying to call and keep checking e-mail."
Jewish- state, but knows that won't happen without substan-
tial compromise on both sides and the end to terrorism.
She's right: The Jewish and Palestinian cultures are so dif-
ferent that they're destined to clash. "Pride comes into play
The Litle family arrived in Israel in 1989, when Abigail was
far more often than the West will admit," she said.
_7 months old. Her father, Philip, was a Baptist minister
Children are highly impressionable. So whatever diplo-
who brought his family from New Hampshire to Israel so
matic solutions ultimately bring a cease-fire, I like Bayer's
he could study at the Technion-Israel Institute of
idea of rallying to change the mindset of kids of all faiths in
_Technology. He became a Baptist leader in Israel and they
the embattled Mideast — instilling tolerance and allaying
never left Haifa.
fear, as remote as that seems.
Abigail, one of five Litle children, was 14 when she died
As Bayer put it: "If children are taught that despite their
at the hands of Mahmoud Hamdan Kwasma, whose moth-
differences, they're all people, there's a better chance that
er celebrated his "deed" by enjoying sweet coffee and knaffe
they'll get along in the future."
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