Victim of Jerusalem Bus Attack Was a Peace Activist and Advocate of Coexistence

Richard Lakin, who succumbed to his wounds on Tuesday morning, was a longtime believer in civil rights and marched with Martin Luther King in the 1960s.

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Richard Lakin.
Richard Lakin.Credit: Facebook

Richard Lakin, 76, died of wounds sustained on October 13 when two Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem and began shooting and stabbing passengers. It was one of the bloodiest attacks in recent violence in which Palestinian attackers killed 11 Israelis. In that time, 55 Palestinians have been killed, including 35 identified by Israel as attackers and the rest in clashes with security forces.

Lakin was originally from Newton, Massachusetts, and a longtime principal in Glastonbury, Connecticut. His Facebook page displayed an image of Israeli and Arab kids hugging under the word "coexist."

Micah Avni said his father was a beloved educator and author of a book on teaching. He was an elementary school principal in the U.S. and taught English in mixed classes of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem after moving to Israel in 1984.

In the 1960s, Lakin was active in the civil rights movement in the U.S., marching with Martin Luther King and bringing students from Boston to the South for sit-ins, Avni said.

"He was a big believer in people and in peace and in being kind and he never hurt a soul in his life," Avni said, adding that thousands of people from around the world have contacted him to express their shock and condolences after his father's death.

Suzanne Hertel of West Hartford, Connecticut taught under Lakin at the Hopewell School in Glastonbury, where he was principal. He championed an effort to bring students from inner-city Hartford to Glastonbury under a program called Project Concern, she said.

Rabbi Richard Plavin of Beth Shalom B'nai Israel in Manchester, Connecticut, which Lakin attended before moving to Israel, said Lakin was a passionate man who pursued peace and justice. He said Lakin was a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, working to desegregate the South.

"He was really a peacenik. He believed deeply in a two-state solution and wanted to see Arabs and Jews living together in peace," he said.

Lakin was on the bus returning from a doctor's appointment for minor back pain when "he was brutalized by two Arabs from east Jerusalem who got on a bus, shot him in the head, then stabbed him in the face, then stabbed him in the head" and continued stabbing him multiple times in the body, his son said.

Avni said his father's legacy "would be for people to take their energy and use it to do kind things, my mother describes it as random acts of kindness."

The funeral will be held on Wednesday.

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