Remembering Richard Lakin

November 8th, 2015 

Richard Lakin dedicated his life to teaching and spreading the message of cooperation and shared living as a an educator and civil rights activist. He was also a much beloved tutor to many Hand in Hand students. He was tragically murdered in a terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem in October, 2015. He was part of the broader Hand in Hand community along with his wife Karen, and used his teaching and social media as platforms to share his dedication to making change. 

Rebecca Bardach, Hand in Hand staff member and parent, writes a dedication to Richard, below: 

 

Richard Lakin was an exceptional mentor who had a profound impact on his students’ lives. I share this as a representative of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual school in Jerusalem, part of a growing network of schools in Israel in which Jews and Arabs study together. Richard was a tutor of many Hand in Hand students.

At Hand in Hand we often find ourselves on the seam line between despair and determination. But we know that we cannot give into despair. Because tomorrow we will come back together again in our schools and communities, and continue our shared effort to build an alternative to violence. 

Richard must have walked this same seam line throughout his life. And he must have felt the magnetic pull of despair’s depths. But he continually rededicated himself to a path of determination, finding all the many ways in which he could take action to live according to his values and his aspirations. He did not just hope for something better. He took action towards this purpose. In teaching. In activism. In building deep relationships with people from across the social divide which others claim is unbridgeable. He worked with many Hand in Hand students.

Rima Jabarra, the mother of one of our Arab students, described Richard’s impact on her son Tamer, whom he tutored for three years:

Studying with Richard was in-depth and unlike any other teacher Tamer had. Richard would bring books to read and discuss at length together - they could talk forever. I remember Tamer talking to me about reading "The Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho - a book about a boy on a journey, and finding meaning and contentment in life. This was so meaningful for Tamer, to have a teacher that really saw him, went in depth about his life and what he believed in, and taught him ways of thinking - not just the material. When Tamer found out that Richard was hurt - he asked me to send his love. He is just really, really sad. He can't believe that this happened to such a good person.

 

Richard continually shared the work of Hand in Hand on Facebook. He joined our community last summer when hundreds of us walked week in and week out on the train track path in Jerusalem to show that we, Jews and Arabs, refuse to be enemies despite the hatred and violence that engulfed Israelis and Palestinians.

But we didn’t read about Richard’s deeds on the front page of the newspaper until now, when he was murdered at the hands of someone who gave in to the pull of despair and turned to the path of violence rather than dialogue. Whose frustration at how things are lead him to killing rather than creating. We blame extremists for the harm of their hate-driven words and deeds. We blame the role of media for amplifying violence and hatred. Perhaps we also need to ask why actions like Richard’s, which are the direct counter to hatred and extremism, are not given greater attention. And what it would be like if we heard of these actions on as equal a basis as the products of hatred.

We can learn from Richard’s life choices. We can each find ways, large and small, to follow the path of determination which he forged. Or we can give in to despair and assume there is no partner. We can seek to understand a person on the other side within their human capacity as well as their historical experience and societal reality.

Richard’s murder at the hands of the violence he fought against is a tragedy. It also compels us to rededicate ourselves to finding ways to bring Jews and Arabs together, as we do at Hand in Hand.

May Richard’s dedication move each of us to recommit ourselves to creating a society in which Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, can live together.

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