Daniel Swindell

My review of ‘The Rage Less Traveled’

Because she is Jewish, Kay Wilson should be dead. Kay survived an Islamist terrorist attack. In her youth, Kay moved to Israel to reconnect with her people. On December 18, 2010, Kay was hiking with a friend in the historic hills of Israel when they were overtaken by two Palestinian men. Her assailants stated, “Any Jews we meet today, we will murder.”  She was bound and gagged. She was hacked thirteen times by a machete, until over thirty bones in her body were broken by the brutal blows. Her Christian friend, Kristine Luken, was slaughtered right in front of her eyes. Several years after the incident, Kay published a memoir, “The Rage Less Traveled,” revealing her excruciating process of physical and spiritual recovery.

It was impossible for me to read this book without thinking of the day I got to hang out with Kay. I recall her British accent, her sometimes slightly inappropriate jokes, and her refusal to see herself as more of a living miracle than any other human being walking down the street.

I was residing in the Holy City of Jerusalem when we met. I don’t drink coffee, so Kay and I ate chocolate chip cookies at a café. Blah, blah, I’m from Missouri. Blah, blah, I’m studying in a Yeshiva for people who did not grow up in Judaism. The reluctance. The waiting. Is it OK to bring it up? She probably gets this question endlessly, and she is probably sick of talking about it. Then, about halfway through, so is it OK to ask about the attack? Sure. Really?

“I pretended to be dead.”

“You’re attackers thought you were dead?”


“So, they didn’t stop swinging the machete, because they felt bad, they stopped because they were sure you were dead?”


Finally, with my tongue dragging along my teeth, I found the right words to frame the question the only way I could ask it.

“So, what is it like to murdered?”

Well, I will let you read the book to find out how she answers that question.

Kay’s writing style is filled with color and free of clichés like, “my life flashed before my eyes.” Kay took the time to create incredible visceral images with each sentence. The language was careful. But she did more with her words than capture “the whole range of human emotions.” In this book, you get to know Kay. 

You get to know the reason why she came to Israel. “After moving to Israel, it took a couple of decades before I knew what I really wanted to do. At first, I didn’t really care. It was as if being in Israel was enough. I was part of something bigger than me, I was part of our history, working to maximize the present for the sake of our future.”

You get to know her friend, Kristine. “I hand Kristine a broom, but she is too excited. Falling to her knees, she sweeps away the sand with her hands. Puffs of yellow waft into the air. Her green-blue eyes are filled with wonder, as if she is opening a chestnut, claret and ruby, spelling out an inscription in Greek.”

You get to know her attackers. “Any Jews we meet today, we will murder.”

You get to know the damage they did to her body. “I look away and eye the tube poking out from under the sheet on my left side that leads down to a clear plastic container filled with maroon sludge on the floor. The nurse watches my eyes. ‘That my dear, is a depository. It’s drainage from your lungs.’”

You get to know the damage they did to her mind. “I scrunch my eyes and am sucked into darkness. I beg the cosmos for an act of mercy; that every bead of sweat, every drop of blood, every white blood cell, every membrane, every nucleus, and every despicable, slimy, evil, repulsive, nefarious piece of plasma that makes me who I am, will flush through the mattress and evaporate forever.”

You get to know the sounds they left in her ears, the repetition of her friend Kristine’s voice begging for mercy while being stabbed. “Hearing the replay of Kristine’s whimper began the night I spoke to her father in the hospital. It came from nowhere and has not left me since. Neither the chatter of my friends, talk radio, a barking dog, a boiling kettle, nor any other noise, mutes this tinnitus of death. For hours on end I swivel my fingers in my ears and try to gouge out her cries. Soon there is a squelch. My ears are warm and wet. When someone pulls out my fingers, they are covered in waxy blood.”

But, you also get to know about Kay’s God and her determination to choose life. Well, I will let you read the book to find out the end.

As a literary achievement, this book belongs in the annals of Jewish history. Certain books are like a time travel machine – they transport us into a different world. There are vital books that capture some aspect regarding the Jewish experience. Sholem Aleichem’s character, Tevye, brought us into the Pale of Settlement to watch his daughters enter into the modern world. The Jazz Singer took us to the shores of America to witness a young Jewish man dropping his last name. Ellie Wiesel brought us with him into Auschwitz. Yossi Klien Halevi took us on a journey to meet the paratroopers who reunited Jerusalem and divided a nation. Kay invited us into her hospital room, her trauma therapist’s office, her physical therapy routine, her nightmares, and into her understanding of God. Kay has completely opened herself to reveal to us what it is like to be victim of a Palestinian terrorist attack. In her memoir, Kay has captured the experience of a Palestinian terrorist attack survivor.

Inside Kay is a little girl who loves mischief. Inside Kay is a teenager who loves to flirt. Inside Kay is a young woman who likes to go to pubs. Inside Kay is a young adult who crossed the world to return to Israel. Inside Kay is an intellectual who yearns to study and became a tour guide. Inside Kay is a woman who loves to show Israel to everyone. As her attacker struck Kay with his machete, he wanted to kill everything inside Kay.

At the end of the book, Kay reserves a single page to address the fact there is a policy by the Palestinian Authority leadership to pay terrorists who murder Israelis. The policy is nicknamed, “Pay to Slay.” Muhammad Shehada, a Palestinian analyst from Gaza, wrote an article in defense of this policy, called, “Does the Palestinian Authority ‘Pay to Slay’ Jews? Here’s how we Palestinians see it.” Shehada says, “Official records show that back in 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization created a ‘Martyrs Fund’ to aid and compensate all Palestinians killed, detained, or wounded by Israel as casualties of the conflict and the struggle for independence. After the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, the PA maintained the fund as a counterbalance to the occupation, to last until the occupation came to an end.”

Shehada equivocates, “Rather than viewing these payments as rewards to violent terrorists, Palestinians view them as compensation to Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation, itself a violent force. And if some terrorists are also recipients of the funds, Israel’s penchant for imprisoning Palestinian nonviolent activists and for keeping Palestinians jailed indefinitely under administrative detention without a trial, has rendered Israel’s claims to who is a terrorist and who is not immaterial.”

Notice, Shehada did not deny that these payments are being made. Instead he argued that Israel has no moral authority to identify who is a terrorist and who is not. In addition, he argued that because Israel might send an innocent Palestinian person to jail, the payments have to be continued. There are three flaws in this argument.

First, since all legal systems occasionally jail the wrong person, the logical outcome of his argument is that if the Israeli legal system make mistakes, then it ceases to have any moral authority. This double standard is not applied to any other nation’s legal system. Second, this means Israel possess the moral authority to identify the difference between who is and who is not a terrorist. There are many cases where the guilt of the Palestinian terrorist is incontrovertible. For example, in the case of Kay, the attacker’s DNA was matched to the crime, and he is still being paid a salary. Third, the money donated from foreign governments is intended for charity, it is not intended to fund violent resistance against Israel.

Foreign politicians are fully aware that the Palestinian Authority is using international aid money to pay Palestinians to slay Jews. Kay writes in her book, “Under the Palestinian Authority law… my assailants have received more than $70,000… These financial rewards come from monies donated by foreign governments – including the United Kingdom.”  And, “For Years, I have tried to stop this outrage. I have sent a letter to every single member of the British Parliament. Only six bothered to acknowledge that they received it.”

The British and American government are indirectly paying Palestinians to slaughter Jews. The funds are documented and the practice has continued for decades. In some places in the world, the British and the Americans are fighting terrorism, in other places they are paying for it. We should not be paying people to murder Jews. This practice must come to an end. Kay has been bravely fighting against this destructive policy since her attack.

Tragically, for the last fifty years, Palestinian terror attacks have become an integral part of the Israeli collective experience. There is an evil double standard against Israeli Jews: When Israelis are stabbed, western leaders expect them to search inside themselves to figure out what they did wrong to cause the assault. What did Kay do wrong when she decided to go for a hike? What did Israel do wrong to make the Palestinian man mutilate her in cold blood?

Israel needed a book to explain to the world what it is like to live with this pain. Israel was waiting for this book. The world was waiting for this book. Anyone who can read this book and continue to justify the Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis has a severe moral blindness. Her words are too loud to be ignored. Kay’s life story makes it undeniable: there is no excuse for the endless violence against Israelis.

(The Rage Less Traveled):

About the Author
Daniel Swindell is a Zionist. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri, and has studied in Yeshiva.