My father loved books. As a teacher and an elementary school principal he shared that love with thousands of children during his lifetime. In 2007, he published a book called, “Teaching as an Act of Love,” summarizing his life’s work and educational philosophy. The message of his book is that every child is a miracle that should be nurtured with love. Every night, when I sit down to read with my young children, I think about Dad. About how he loved to read with children, and how children loved to read with him.
On October 13, 2015, two Palestinian terrorists boarded public bus number 78 in Jerusalem and committed a heinous attack. They brutally murdered three innocent civilians, and injured 15 others. My beloved father, Richard Lakin, was among those murdered. The terrorists shot my 76-year-old father in the head, and then, after he fell to the ground, stabbed him multiple times in the head, face, chest and stomach, severing most of his vital organs.
Last week, the public library in the El-Bireh Municipality held a “cultural evening” called “In the Presence of the Martyrs” at which it honored no less than four terrorists — three of them murderers — and, among them, Baha Alyan, the terrorist who murdered my father.
Over the past three years, the Palestinian Authority has been hard at work promoting Baha Alyan as a shahid (a holy martyr) and role model for Palestinian youth. What follows are a few examples reported by Palestinian Media Watch:
- President Muhamad Abbas has met publically with Mohamad Alyan – the terrorist’s father, praising my father’s murder – calling Baha Alyan “martyr.”
- Jabril Rajoub (#3 in the Fatah party hierarchy) has spoken on PA television commending Baha Alya’s activities and calling on others to follow suit.
- The Palestinian official daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida devoted an article to the life of a terrorist killer, praising his virtues. The headline read “Baha Alyan – Martyr and intellectual”
- Palestinian Authority Television has hosted the terrorist’s father twice on their show Good Morning Jerusalem, where, not surprisingly, the host referred to his son as a “shining martyr.”
- The Palestinian Authority Official Facebook Page posted the “Ten Commandments of a Martyr” written by Baha Alyan – all about killing Jews and destroying Israel.
- The Palestinian Authority provides the family of Baha Alyan with a monthly cash stipend under its Pay to Slay Law. A reward, if you wil, for murdering my father.
- The Palestinian Scout Association (the local chapter of the Boy Scouts) established a leadership training course named after Baha Alyan. They are teaching children that this horrible terrorist is an example for every scout.
- The Palestinian Authority Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs established a summer camp named after Baha Alyan in the village of Beit Anan, northwest of Jerusalem. You can guess what they teach there.
- Schools and universities in the West Bank and Gaza have hosted numerous lectures, reader’s circles, book fairs, school plays, wish boxes, etc. Too many to keep track of.
- There are Baha Alyan Facebook Pages and Baha Alyan memorial videos on YouTube, etc. All glorifying this horrific terrorist for murdering my father. All encouraging Palestinian youth to go out and commit similar acts.
The focused efforts of the Palestinian Authority to glorify Baha Alyan as a holy martyr send a very clear message to Palestinian youth: Go out and kill Israelis in an attempt to destroy Israel and you will go to heaven. You too will become a martyr. A hero. It is the right thing to do.
For many years, my father lovingly served as the principal of Hopewell Elementary School in Glastonbury, Connecticut. After Dad was murdered, the parents and teachers memorialized him by establishing a new reading section in the school library aimed at “teaching kindness.” Nothing could be more befitting. They hung a plaque at the entrance to the school which reads: “Richard devoted his life to promoting kindness, understanding, compassion and peace. He encouraged fairness, equality and respect for all people. Richard made the world a better place to live.”
Juxtapose the library at Hopewell Elementary School where children are taught love and kindness through books, with the public library in the El-Birah Municipality where children at taught to follow in the footsteps of mass murderers. The enormous challenge that we face becomes crystal clear: as long as Palestinian leaders nurture a culture of hate, using elementary schools and public libraries to encourage school children to go out and kill, more violence is inevitable. By turning murderers into role models, they distance all of us from the love and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood.