March 11, 2003
HARRISONVILLE – The grandfather of a 14-year-old girl who was killed in a suicide bus bombing in Israel said the hatred behind such an act is more than he can comprehend.
"I don’t understand the mentality of how people can treat people the way in which they do," said John Litle, who is a charter member of Antioch Southern Baptist Church in Harrisonville. His granddaughter, Abigail, was one of 15 people killed March 4 in Haifa.
"We’re used to being around people who love you and would give the shirt off their back to you and help you in every way that they could. To mindlessly kill innocent people, it’s just so foreign to us that we really can’t comprehend it."
Abigail’s father, Phil, was raised Southern Baptist and became a follower of Jesus Christ in the church. Antioch was chartered in 1979, and in the early days of the church Phil served as discipleship director. He also was ordained by the church into the gospel ministry.
Phil and his wife, Heidi, had two children when they left for Israel in1989. Abigail was an infant at the time. Phil’s desire when he came to Israel was to study at the Haifa Technion. Despite all of the dangers that one would associate with living in Israel for a prolonged period of time, Phil always felt called to remain where he was.
The Kansas City Star reported that the oldest son, 15-year-old Josiah Litle, said that the family made its choice to live where they live. They were going to live with the community of people who shared their neighborhood, Josiah said.
John Litle said that Phil’s fellow Christians in Israel have responded well. "I know that the church family is ministering to him. They’ve had a house full of people. They have five children, and classmates for each one of those five children have been there (on March 6). They said it was like a revolving door. The apartment was full of people."
The church back in Harrisonville has been active as well as it continues to look after the needs of John and his wife, Blanche.
"They are a family to us," John Litle said. "They have prayed for us, visited with us, comforted us, taken over some of our responsibilities. I lead an Acts 20:20 study on Wednesday nights, and one of the people in my group took it over and had it in their house so I didn’t have to do that."
Litle is one of five elders in his elder-led Southern Baptist church. His fellow elder, pastor Ernie Cecil, came over to the house on the morning when the news came out of Israel that Abigail had been killed.
"She was a young, vivacious 14-year-old," Litle said. "She had a lot of artistic talent, loved animals and was outgoing and friendly."
A 20-year-old computer student named Mahmoud Amadan Salim Kawasme was identified as the bomber. He sat quietly on Bus 37, the bus that Abigail often rode, before blowing himself up.
More than 50 people were injured by the blast.
"My sister was an innocent child," Josiah Litle told the newspaper Haaretz. "She loved people and she loved nature. She knew she loved God and that He loved her."
No organization has claimed responsibility, although the group Hamas praised the attack. The office of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat responsible for the attack, Haaretz said.
Litle was one of two victims aboard the bus who attended Haifa’s Really School and were part of the CTC (Children Teaching Children) program of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace in Givat Haviva, Israel, according to a March 6 report by ASSIST News Service.
Litle and Yuval Mandalovich, 13, had been involved since last September in the program that "teaches towards pluralism, tolerance and coexistence."