“Choose love, not hate,” Micah Lakin Avni told US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday as he urged him to push the Obama administration to clamp down on Palestinian terrorism.
“The American government is funding [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas,” said Avni, yet the Palestinian leader is glorifying those who kill US citizens.
Avni and his mother, Karen, spoke with The Jerusalem Post after meeting with Biden, who then left Jerusalem for Jordan, the final leg of his week-long Middle East trip.
Terrorism is a personal issue for Avni, an Israeli businessman whose father, Richard Lakin, 73, died from gunshot and stab wounds he suffered during a Palestinian terrorist attack in October 2015 on a No. 78 bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatizv neighborhood.
Avni and his mother brought two pictures to their meeting with Biden.
The first was a screen shot of the Facebook page of Richard, who moved to Jerusalem after working as the principal of an elementary school in Glastonbury, Connecticut. It had the word coexist written out in letters forming a cross, crescent and star of David, symbolizing the Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The second photograph was a collage documenting Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews.
Lakin and his family immigrated to Israel from the US in 1984. Richard, an educator, devoted his life to teaching about coexistence. He had taught at the Jewish-Arab school Hand to Hand in Jerusalem.
Avni handed Biden a copy of his father’s book, Teaching as an Act of Love, and placed a personal letter inside it.
“Dear Vice President Biden,” the letter began.
“In 1969, the year that I was born, Golda Meir was elected as the prime minister of Israel. Golda, like our family, moved to Israel from the United States; two countries bound together by shared values.
Prime minister Meir famously observed that, “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us,” the letter stated.
“Forty-six years have passed. We have continued to teach our children to love, while our neighbors increasingly teach their children to hate,” the letter continued.
“The message of this book is “Every child [is] a miracle,” a miracle that should be nurtured with love, not hatred. It is our responsibility to spread this message,” the letter ended.
Avni gave Biden an identical letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas, and asked him to forward it to the Palestinian leader along with a copy of his father’s book.
He noted it compared his father – who dedicated his life to educating children and teaching civil rights and co-existence – to the father of his killer, who met with Abbas, and who glorified his son as a martyr, Avni said.
Avni added that he believes that Biden’s heart is in the right place.
“Every meeting like this takes us one step closer to Western governments ... internalizing the severity of what is going on, and the importance of beginning to deal with the motivation for terrorism,” he said.
It is better to stop incitement before it begins rather than to be reactive, he emphasized.
Avni’s father’s murder turned him into an activist working to halt the social media incitement that feeds terrorism. He plans to speak on this issue before the UN Human Rights Council later this month and to challenge UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to denounce Palestinian terrorism.