• I am a Palestinian Christian who shares your sorrow. And I am not the only one.

Matt Hanna (pseudonym), a Palestinian from Gaza, living in Bethlehem | Photo: CourtesyDear Rena and Amichai Ariel,

I’m writing to you with deep sorrow in my heart. I try to imagine your loss from the brutal murder of your lovely daughter, and I cannot. As a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Gaza, I can tell you that my heart is broken and I mourn with you the loss of lovely Hallel.

One thing that makes my heart ache is knowing how I used to think and feel only a few years ago. Growing up, I was filled with hate for Jews. In my earliest years and all through high school, I learned to see Jews as evil characters, like villains in a comic book or monsters in a movie. My teachers said that Jews want to kill us all and that they stole our fathers’ native lands. They said that Jews have no history here and are illegal occupiers.

I don’t know why, but one day I opened a Bible and began to read it for myself. I was shocked to learn that God brought the Jews here thousands of years ago and promised them this land forever. I was also shocked to learn that Jesus is a Jew. Although I was a Christian, I never knew these things.

Today I am a different man. How can I not love Jesus’ human family? Should I not rejoice when they rejoice and weep when they weep?

Today I weep with you and cannot find a way to stop. I am haunted by the pictures of Hallel’s sweet face and the bed where she was murdered.

I am enraged with the terrorist who murdered her and with religious and political leaders here who trained him and now call him a shahid, a martyr hero.

I mourn your painful loss and wish that I could come to you to cry and weep. But I cannot.

Instead, from Bethlehem, I grieve with a new understanding. I have come to see that, in spite of its problems, Israel is the best hope for my people.

Today I am a Palestinian Christian who shares your sorrow. And I am not the only one.

Hallel (left) and her mother, Rina Ariel [Courtesy]

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