KAY WILSON became international news after surviving a brutal terror attack in Israel during which another woman died. It happened in December 2010 while Kay, a British-born Jew and Kristine Luken, her American Christian friend, were hiking in the Mata Forest outside Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.
Kay had first visited Israel in her teens, making aliya (formally emigrating) in 1991 just as SCUD missiles began falling on Tel Aviv during the First Gulf War. But the experience did not faze her and she remained in Israel, going on to work variously as an illustrator and cartoonist, then a jazz pianist before becoming a tour guide, speaking in both Hebrew and English and specialising in providing Christian tourists with a greater understanding of the Christian Bible within the context of Second Temple Judaism.
Kay and Kristine had met during a Holocaust study tour for Christians in Poland. As a guide Kay was interested to see how Christians relate to the Holocaust. Kristine wanted to learn more about Jewish history. They became close friends and kept in contact.
Since the attack in which she suffered 13 machete wounds and dozens of broken bones, Kay has become a motivational speaker and now discusses human rights and justice for the victims of terrorism on behalf of several Israel advocacy groups and Magen David Adom – Israel’s national emergency service.
Here, in an interview conducted before the beginning of IDF Operation Protective Edge, Kay Wilson speaks to me about her horrific experience, living in Israel and coping with survival.
N. W. You’re a cartoonist. Have you drawn as therapy since the attack? Indeed, have you drawn anything? If so, what have you produced?
K. W. I’m now working on a weekly syndicate for The Times of Israel. It’s a cartoon series called Let My People Giggle, which follows the Torah portions each week. It will be launched in the middle of July.
N. W. You’re also a jazz pianist. Who’s your favourite Jewish jazz musician? Maybe you like to doodle on the keys? Not just Somewhere over the Rainbow? Do you play any other instruments? Perhaps compose a little?
K. W. I like Irving Berlin. He was born ‘Israel Beilin’ and taught himself piano by playing on the black keys. He is America’s most prolific composer. I admire that he did all that he did against all odds and from nothing. Technically, I play the violin but I don't play it because I don't have one any more so I only play the piano. I don't know if I actually compose or just sit and play what comes into my head in the hope to discover new sounds. When I like how something sounds, then I write it down. If that’s composing then I suppose I do compose!
N. W. And the walking! I appreciate that as a former keen long-distance runner you may have recovered somewhat more ably than a previously sedentary person. Nonetheless it was quite an achievement for you to walk the 10 kilometres you managed during this year’s Jerusalem Marathon on behalf of the One Family terror victims’ support group. How much money did you raise?
K. W. I didn't raise any money. I walked/ran to encourage others to do it so they could raise the money.
N. W. It’s now three-and-half-years since you and Kristine Luken were attacked and by the time this interview is published, it will be at least a couple of months since the kidnap and murder of the three Orthodox teenagers on the West Bank in Israel. Do you think the State of Israel should consider the death penalty for these crimes?
K. W. I decline to answer because my answer is complex and this interview does not warrant a yes or no answer without me stating why I advocate or don't advocate for the death penalty.
N. W. We all have different reasons. What impelled you to make aliya (immigrate to Israel) and then stay in Israel?
K. W. I was bored in the UK. I wanted adventure. I thought I’d start off in Tel Aviv and work my way around the world. I’m still here. I was always a latent Zionist and it came into fruition after the event.
N. W. On 25 June this summer you announced that you’ve ‘started school at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’. What course are you taking? Do you have new career plans?
K. W. Every day Facebook tells me “You just have to complete your education and then your profile is complete”. I didn't know how to get them to stop bugging me, so I lied. I don't believe in a career I believe in taking my experience and becoming a better person in the hope that it will inspire others to choose life. In this sense I am beginning to do more public speaking, especially for Israel advocacy which is a subject dear to my heart.
N. W. In the years before the attack did you ever think you’d made a mistake and want to return to the U.K.? I know you’ve returned on behalf of the StandWithUs educational and advocacy group. Do you miss anything about the U.K.?
K. W. I never regretted coming to Israel. I never thought about moving back after the attack. It has been my home since the mid-eighties; I have lived longer here than I did there. All I miss is customer service and creamy beer!
N. W. I’ve read that your dog, Peanut was unharmed by your assailants. What sort of a dog is she? Did she run to the road and bark try to raise an alarm like dogs sometimes do? Or was she also attacked?
K. W. She was a cross between a pincher and dachshund. They stabbed her but she survived and dragged her way through the forest after me. Sadly, she got run over a year later.
N. W. The Star of David necklace you were wearing when you were attacked plays an important symbolic role in your story, both during the attack and after. Why have you decided to have it memorialised, rather than to wear it?
K. W. Because it is a reminder to me that I was nearly murdered for being Jewish. It is the only personal item that I wanted returned from the police. I don't want to lose it so I keep it at home.
N. W. During a powerful radio interview on Israel National News, you described the scene in court where your assailants’ ordinary faces became demonic when you cried ‘Am Yisroel chai – the People of Israel live’. But you insist that you hate only hatred and the fact that they’ve been taught to hate. How do you to reconcile this with what has happened to you?
K. W. I hate their hatred. I am sick of their sickness. Justice to a certain degree has been done so I choose not to dwell on them or hate them, not for their sake but for my own. Instead I fill my life with positive people and beautiful things.
N. W. In the days before this interview we were treated to the ‘Tale of the Two Zoabis’: Hanin Zoabi – the Israeli woman Arab MK who insists that those who kidnapped the three teenagers are not terrorists and her distant relative, Mohammad Zoabi, an Israeli Arab student described as a ‘proud Zionist patriot’. Have you ever met either of them? How, in the tight-knit Arab world, could members of the same extended clan hold such different views?
K. W. I have never met either of them and I don't understand how they have such different views.
N. W. As a quite extraordinary aside, you’ve also had to fight libellous accusations from a cyber-bully. Had you previously known this person? Why has he acted like this? Have you had any restitution?
K. W. It was the ex-husband of a good friend who could not stand up for herself because she was scared of him. When bullies are exposed, I find that they fight like cowards, and this is what he did. He went behind the scenes thinking he would never be caught. I am in the process of suing him because although he admitted what he did, he never made right by publicly apologising and covering my expenses for hiring a cyber detective. He should get his summons after the court resumes from summer recess.
N. W. But almost four years on, your terrible story appears to have no happy ending or any firm conclusion. Indeed, the next ‘chapter’ is due to begin some weeks after this interview on Thursday 10 July with your appearance at the Israel Supreme Court, Jerusalem. It is then that one of your assailants will appeal against his sentence as an accomplice to the murder of Kristine Luken. How will you cope with that?
K. W. Seeing them in court is a lot easier than meeting them in the forest. Though obviously the less I see of them the better. They belong in a place where all sons of evil belong.
“It is tragic to hear the news of this Arab teenager who was abducted and murdered in the night. The Israeli police are investigating who is behind this heinous act. It needs to be said now before we are the wiser that whether Jews or Arabs did this, terror is terror and blood is blood. I pray that the police catch the terrorists, justice is served, that the boy rests in peace and that God comforts his family”. (Kay Wilson writing as police began investigating the murder of 16-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir whose charred body was found the morning after the funerals of the three Jewish boys).
N. W. Kay Wilson, thank you for talking to Alwayswriteagain.
This interview first appeared in the August 2014 edition of Live Encounters magazine (http://liveencounters.net/?p=7925) edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.
© Natalie Wood (29 July 2014)