Remembering December 18, 2010

Kristine Luken was an American working for CMJ UK when her life was violently taken in the Jerusalem Forest

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By Dr. Theresa Newell 

My remembrance of this awful day of Kristine’s death was that we were just completing our Israel Board meeting at Christ Church Jerusalem.  I was in my room in the guest house when our then-Israel Director Don Stanley phoned my room and asked if I had any contact info on Kristine Luken's family in the United States. I had processed Kristine from the US to do work with CMJ a few years before, but I thought this a strange request coming at 10:30 p.m. and urgent. Since there was no opening for work in Israel at the time Kristine applied to work, she was accepted for an administrative post at the CMJ UK office in Nottingham, which she gladly accepted and where all who worked with her attested to her good work and cheerful spirit.  

She had been working there for several years when she decided to take a December holiday break in Israel to visit friends. Kay, a guide and friend, had offered to hike with her in the Jerusalem Forest and to show her some recent archeological findings there. 

Kristine Luken

It was along that path that the two women were attacked viciously by two Palestinian men, who stabbed them (and Kay's small dog Peanut) with serrated knives. Kristine died there. Kay played dead and, beyond anyone's belief, made it to a parking lot where someone saw her and called for emergency medical help.  Those who know Kay know that she is among the spunkiest women on the planet.  In the process of fighting off the attackers, she had taken out a penknife from her bag and managed to stab one of the assailants in his thigh. Thus she got a DNA sample from his blood, which the Israeli police used to ultimately track down and identify the attackers. They had come from the Hebron area and were part of a radicalized group. They had found a way into the Jerusalem area where there was no security fence. 

My husband Bruce was home in America and got calls (somehow?!) from the New York Times, who had tracked down my name from the internet. They did not know that they were talking to the former Chief of Naval Communications, so he of course made no comment and phoned me in Jerusalem to learn what was happening.   

The Board was called together immediately, and we prayed and began to get reports from the hospital on Kay's critical condition.  Kristine's body had not been found at that time.  It was a night of horrible news.  The Israeli papers were full of reports the next morning. Search parties were sent out. Based on Kay's description, Kristine's body was found. More prayer. While Kay suffered horribly from her multiple wounds and still does suffer, emotionally and physically, she has become an outspoken person standing against terrorism-- and at the same time acts as a bridge between Arabs and Israelis, with friends on both sides.  She is a valiant champion of truth in so many ways. 

We know for sure that Kristine is in the presence of the Lord. As we anticipate that great Resurrection Day, we rejoice in that certainty, even as we mourn her loss to us. 

Dr. Theresa Newell is the founder of CMJ USA and serves on its board of directors.

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