Reporter's notebookFirst time I covered funeral of friend killed by terrorism

Bidding a final farewell to a friend

In service marked by talk of peace and kindness, Richard Lakin, third victim of bus 78 terror attack, laid to rest outside Jerusalem

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Mourners lay stones on fresh grave of terror victim Richard Lakin, October 28, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)
Mourners lay stones on fresh grave of terror victim Richard Lakin, October 28, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

I’ve covered funerals before. I’ve even covered funerals of terror victims. But today was the first time that I covered the funeral of a friend who was killed by an act of terrorism. Some may find it odd that I was on the job at a friend’s funeral, but I am nothing but grateful for the fact that I had my reporter’s notebook and pen in hand today. Casting at least some semblance of a professional eye on what was happening kept me from completely falling apart.

Today Richard Lakin, 76, was laid to rest at the Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in the hills outside Jerusalem. He had been stabbed and shot in the head and chest by Palestinian terrorists as he rode the number 78 bus home from a doctor’s appointment in the capital’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on the morning of October 13. He clung to life for two weeks as the staff at Hadassah Medical Center fought to save him in the trauma intensive care unit. Yesterday morning he died surrounded by his family.

Despite the brutally violent way in which Richard was murdered, there was only talk of peace and kindness at his funeral and burial, which were attended by several hundred mourners. In their eulogies, his son Micah Avni and daughter Manya Lakin said their father, a lifelong educator who had devoted himself to helping children of all faiths and nationalities in both the US and Israel become the best people they could be, would have wanted it no other way.

“Dad affected the lives of thousands of people: children, teachers and parents, he loved them, he infected them with kindness and positivism and empowered them to realize their potential. He made the world a better place,” said Micah.

Richard Lakin, who was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem in October 2015 (via Facebook)

“Dad was taken from us by hatred and evil. But he would not want us to respond with hatred and evil. He would forgive, and guide us to respond with love and kindness.”

Manya said her father’s beliefs were universal and above any particular religion or agenda. Richard, a liberal Jew, had actively fought for civil rights in the US in the 1960s, and here in Israel he participated in efforts to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro (right) speaks with Karen Lakin at funeral for terror victim Richard Lakin, October 28, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

Among those accompanying Richard, an American-Israeli, on his last journey were former Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman and American ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, along with his wife Julie Fisher.

“Richard, an American and Israeli, lived according to the best values of both countries. His life was one of good deeds, kindness, tolerance, and caring for children, and we are proud of the legacy he leaves behind. May his memory be a blessing,” Shapiro wrote on his Facebook page.

There was only talk of peace and kindness at his funeral and burial

Richard was a man of moderate views who opposed extremism, racism and hateful incitement — the kind that apparently motivated his killers.

In a fitting memorial tribute, his family has filed a class action law suit against Facebook in a New York court, accusing the social media giant of ignoring widespread posts calling for violence against Jews.

“There is an evil face to social media. I realized that social media has reached a level where incitement has run rampant…Massive amounts or incitement, of instructional videos that show people how to split stomachs open, how to cut veins, how to create injuries—inciting people to do this. This is at the core of this current intifada…these brutal stabbings in the street are a result of incitement that is passed along and strengthened by social media,” Micah told Israel National News.

The Lakin family is not seeking any financial compensation through the lawsuit. Instead, they hope the legal action will achieve change.

“The change will either come from self-regulation if Mark Zuckerberg will have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Even if it costs me a few dollars, I am going to police myself and I’m going to take care of this and I’m going to take down this incitement,’ or from the courts instructing him to do this. Or government officials will understand that there need to be new regulations and laws to do this. I am certain it will be dealt with. It may take six months, it may take a year, but a change will happen,” Micah said.

I’ve known Richard, who immigrated to Israel from Connecticut with his family in 1983, since I met and befriended Micah when we were both teenagers. Richard and his wife Karen’s home was always open to me, and eventually to my husband and children. Just last December Richard attended our youngest son’s bar mitzvah. I’m glad we have a picture in the bar mitzvah photo album of Richard and Karen sitting together at the luncheon, smiling and enjoying themselves.

I will also hold on to the memory of a conversation I had with Richard earlier this year when I ran into him as we were both doing some shopping on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem’s German Colony. I was telling him about some of the challenges that our family was facing in our first year as new Israeli citizens. Richard told me to try to forget about our first year of aliyah.

“Just forget about that difficult year and consider your second year, which will be better, as your real first year,” he told me.

Despite our being more settled in now, I’m not so sure I will ever be able to think of our second year here in Israel as better. I will always remember it as the year that our friend Richard, a man who never hurt anyone, was brutally murdered by terrorists. But I owe it to Richard, who dreamed and worked for a better world, to try.

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