Richard Lakin’s inspiring vision

The evil of terrorism does not discriminate, striking down the very best of people.

Richard Lakin (photo credit: COURTESY OF FAMILY)
Richard Lakin
(photo credit: COURTESY OF FAMILY)
Making sense of death is a near-impossible task. But with more than four months having passed since the brutal murder of my father, Richard Lakin, a dual citizen of both Israel and the United States, some things have become clear to me.
First, the evil of terrorism does not discriminate, striking down the very best of people.
Second, terrorism does not occur in a vacuum. More than 30 Israelis have been killed during the latest wave of violence, almost half murdered by Palestinians aged 20 or under – children who have been indoctrinated to kill through poisonous incitement.
Third, and perhaps most unequivocally, my father’s treasured values of coexistence, equality and peace must not be allowed to perish with him.
You would be hard-pressed to find a greater advocate for peace and coexistence than my father. As a young man in Connecticut, he pioneered the integration of the school at which he served as principal, and marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights struggle.
These values never dulled after he immigrated to Israel with his family in the 1980s.
As far as my father was concerned, the ethical standards that Americans treasure are the same principles that we hold dear in Israel. An active member of several coexistence movements, he dedicated his professional life to teaching English to children of all races and religions.
It is a powerful testament to my father that Jewish, Muslim and Christian children visited his hospital bedside after he had been shot and stabbed on the No. 78 bus in Jerusalem.
Our family has been following the terrible events of the past few months closely.
With every attack we relive the nightmare and ask ourselves the same question: what causes a teenager to grab a knife and butcher an innocent civilian? As my father well understood, people are not born with hate, it is inculcated.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must shoulder much of the blame. He has shamelessly endorsed the actions of countless terrorists, praising their “martyrdom.”
He even made a condolence call to the family of Bahaa Allyan, one of the two young terrorists who murdered my father.
Allyan was also powerfully influenced by the inescapable reality of social media. He posted instructions on his Facebook page to be carried out after his death and prepared a grotesque video, which later went viral, calling on others to follow his path.
Like any tool, social media can also be used for unbridled good. My father’s tens of thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook were almost entirely dedicated to messages of hope and peace. For him, social media was an opportunity to foster brotherhood, not division.
My father’s vision of hope and peace not only formed the core of his identity, but also encapsulated the two countries of which he was a citizen. In many ways, he represented all that Israel and the United States share – love of freedom, liberty and equality for all.
Last month I wrote to President Barack Obama, urging him to condemn Abbas’ visit to the parents of the terrorist who murdered my father, and to call upon Abbas to curtail the wanton incitement that is fueling this wave of terrorism. I know that Vice President Joe Biden, who will be visiting Israel soon, shares the same values as my father.
I am sure that he too will take the simple message of my father’s book, Teaching As an Act of Love, and convey it to President Abbas: “Every child is a miracle,” a miracle that should be nurtured with love, not hatred.
The author, who lives in Jerusalem, is the son of Richard Lakin, a retired Newton elementary school principal who emigrated to Israel. This article originally appeared in the Boston Herald on March 6.