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Easter Message: Ahmed’s Gift of Life

An Easter Message: Ahmed’s gift of life

I was recently asked by a group of students, what is Easter all about? After a long pause, I decided to try and illustrate it by telling the true story of Ahmed Khatib, a Palestinian boy of 12 years old, who was tragically shot dead in the occupied West Bank, in 2005, by a Jewish soldier who thought the toy gun he was playing with was real. The Israeli army quickly apologised and the story was going out of the news….. except Ahmed’s mother, Abla, and father, Ismail, decided to do something utterly surprising – they decided to donate Ahmed’s organs for a transplant; an amazing gesture because their son was in an Israeli hospital and his body parts would primarily, save the lives of Israelis. Within hours, Ahmed’s heart was transplanted into a 12-year-old Israeli girl, his lungs into a Jewish teenager suffering from cystic fibrosis and his liver was divided between a seven-month-old Jewish girl and a 58-year-old mother of two suffering from chronic hepatitis. The kidneys were divided between a three-year-old Jewish girl and a five-year-old Bedouin Arab.

I explained to my students that this story demonstrated the heart of the Easter story: that God brings life out of death, in the same way that Ahmed’s mother and father brought life out of the death of their son. This seemed to satisfy the majority of students who left, leaving two, who were intrigued by the story. One asked, ‘but why did they do it?’ For three reasons, I replied: Firstly and foremost they saw the suffering of many children in the hospital and wanted to alleviate the suffering of others, no matter who they were; secondly they wanted to give meaning to their son’s death; and thirdly they did it as an act of resistance. Of course this provoked the inevitable question: Why was it an act of resistance? So I paraphrased, as best I could, what I remember Ahmed’s mother saying:

“Our action is a form of resistance. Six Israelis have a part of a Palestinian in them and we don’t think those people will come to kill a Palestinian. Also I don’t think their family members would kill a Palestinian child.” “Violence against violence is worthless. It creates more death. Maybe this will reach the ears of the whole world so they can distinguish between just and unjust. Maybe the Israelis will think of us differently.’’ And she was right. Many Israelis, including influential and eminent politicians, were surprised and impressed by the Khatibs’ humanity, changing their perception that all Palestinians were Jew-haters and terrorists.

This story resonates strongly with the Easter story because Ismail and Abla’s son is literally alive in the bodies of 6 Israelis. There is something incredibly powerful about the idea of a Palestinian heart pumping life around the body of an Israeli. And this act of life giving is not a single one off story. There are examples of Israeli’s showing similar magnanimous gestures towards Palestinians. The story of the gift of Ahmed’s life shows that the spirit and reality of Easter is not just something that only happened over 2000 years ago, but is something that is present in our the world today and can be in our lives. To quote Marcus Borg, an American Theologian:

You won’t find Jesus in the land of the dead. He is still with us. The powers killed him – but they couldn’t stop him.

They crucified him and buried him in a rich man’s tomb. But imperial execution and a tomb couldn’t hold him.

He’s still loose in the world. He’s still out there, still here, still recruiting people to share his passion for a transformed world here and now. It’s not over.

A Joyful Easter to You and your families.

Iain Lothian