In a moving ceremony that reaffirmed American Kristine Luken’s deep love for Israel and God, 100 people gathered in Christ Church in the Old City in Jerusalem in a memorial service for the women who was murdered in a stabbing attack on Saturday night.
“She went boldy where she believe God wanted her to go, and was not deterred in her dogged pursuit despite questioning and ridicule from others,” her family said in a letter that was read at the service.
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“While we may never understand why she lost her life in this senseless tragedy, we must not lose sight of her example.”
Her boss, Robin Aldridge, director of CMJ (“The Church’s Ministry among the Jewish People”) UK, praised Luken’s dedication to the organization, remembering how she flew to England to help the organization celebrate its bicentennial, even though she hadn’t started working at the office yet due to visa problems. He recounted how when she finally arrived, she came with packets of zaatar to sprinkle on all her food, a habit probably picked up in Israel.
“She radiated goodness that came from the inner core of her being,” Aldridge said in a statement that was read at the ceremony.
Tal Silver, an employee of Christ Church, was the one to deliver the news of the tragedy to some of Luken’s friends around the world. “She was always with a smile on her face, even when she had difficulties, and it was genuine,” Silver told the Post. Luken was like his big sister, he said.
Friends of Luken described how she had left a steady job with the Department of Education, where she had worked for 16 years, and sold all of her belongings to follow her dream of working for CMJ.
Luken’s body is being flown home to the United States on Thursday night. Her family declined to release details of the funeral to the media. A memorial service will also be held in Nottingham, England, at the offices of CMJ UK, on January 12. Luken is survived by her twin sister, Kathleen, and her parents.
Kay Wilson, who was hiking with Luken when the two were attacked near Mata in the Jerusalem Forest, is still recuperating in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, and is expected to stay in the hospital for at least another few days, said Christ Church rector David Pileggi.
“Kay is in a lot of pain, but she’s in good spirits,” said Pileggi, who visited her yesterday. “She is extremely courageous, but it’s very hard for her, she’s still in trauma. But she’s going to recover emotionally and physically.”
Pileggi said there has been an outpouring of support from people around the world, and he has received hundreds of emails offering prayers and even vacation homes in Switzerland and Hawaii where Wilson could recuperate with her dog, Peanut.
The Church plans on celebrating Christmas as usual on Friday night, with a Christmas mass with music that usually draws upwards of 1,300 attendees, mostly curious Israelis. Given the recent events, the service will take on special meaning this year. “We will put up [Luken’s] picture, and we will pray for Kay,” said Pileggi.
Luken’s friend Raoul Garland noted that the tragedy is especially bitter to come at Christmas, a supposedly joyful season. “She lived simply, intensely, with purpose,” he said in a letter that was read at the service. “I can imagine her, in her last breath, saying [like Jesus], ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ After all, Jesus knew what it was like to be stripped and abandoned, to be alone and bleeding on a Jerusalem hillside.”