Photo: Stephen Kliner

Richard Kemp told the meeting:
“The IDF should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize”

An evening with Col. Richard Kemp and
author/tour guide/survivor/activist Kay Wilson

I had seen several posts on Facebook of Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, former British Infantry Commander, speaking out in praise of the morality and restraint of the IDF. How many respected military persons do that… and so I loved him. The idea of attending an evening to hear him speak in person was an attractive prospect indeed. About 400 other people apparently felt the same. Meeting Kay Wilson, whom Richard Kemp called “the bravest person I have ever met,” was unexpectedly a huge treat.

The event venue organized by Glenis Bertfield, ESRA Vice-Chair, was the Ohel Ari Synagogue in Raanana, which could hold up to 500 people, as Glenis knew this would be a popular event. The evening began with some words from newly elected ESRA Chairman, Terry Morris, who said that looking over the long list of the evening's attendees, he noticed many were not ESRA members, and wondered why. Deciding it must be because they didn't know enough about ESRA, the social and cultural activities it offers, the many education and welfare projects it supports, and the varied volunteering opportunities it offers, he proceeded to briefly inform the audience.

Richard Kemp then took the podium and showed us right off that he was also an entertaining, humorous speaker. He started by mentioning that this was a special day, the 4th of July, adding that “most countries have celebrated their independence from Britain at one time or another”, to appreciative audience laughter.

He spoke of his warm welcome at the BBC studios for a series of TV interviews, until they blanched at hearing his pro-Israel rhetoric. Putting it in no uncertain terms, he said “BBC is an enemy of this country. It has an agenda that is opposed to the State of Israel.”

He spoke of his firsthand experience in Hebron and on the Gaza border. Based on what he has seen, he refutes the lies delivered at the UN about the IDF. “Instead of being vilified,” Kemp said, “the IDF should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Speaking of the practice of Western countries, including Britain, that fund the Palestinian Authority, he said, “We need to take action against those who pour money into supporting the terrorists that carry out these murderous acts.” He was referring specifically to the murderous act perpetrated against Kay Wilson who survived, and her friend, who didn’t. And this was why he was here this evening – to support Kay in her activism against funding terror, and to support this very brave woman in her quest to tell her story.

So, who is Kay Wilson? British born, she made aliyah from London in the 1980’s. Her biography at the back of her book describes her as a tour guide, a jazz pianist, a cartoonist, and a motivational speaker who, since 2014 has addressed the UN, given a TED talk, been interviewed on radio and TV in and outside of Israel, and has addressed audiences around the world. As a representative of Palestinian Media Watch, she lobbies Western governments to end the foreign aid that rewards her would-be murderers with monthly salaries. Together with a Muslim friend, she created The Yellow Brick Road, a project to teach Palestinian children living in refugee camps emotional intelligence, empathy and courage, with the aim of empowering them to stand up to adults who would groom them to sacrifice their lives. Her fame is the result of her surviving a terror attack and being instrumental in the authorities’ successful capture of her assailants. She began writing as part of her trauma therapy, and eventually it turned into her book, The Rage Less Traveled. And yes, she is a remarkable person.

Kay explained why she has been  traveling the world for the last five and a half years telling her story. She wanted her murdered friend to be remembered; she wanted people to know that her friend, a Christian American, was murdered for the simple reason that she was thought to be Jewish, and because she, Kay, cannot abide the fact her assailants have been compensated for their act to the tune of £70,000 each so far, with the help of UK funding.

Next Kay addressed the question of what it takes to get published. She said you must fulfill one of three conditions, “you must either be a famous person, such as a movie star or politician, or you must be an amazingly creative writer, or you must be telling an out-of-this-world story – which I thought I was.”

Incredibly, or perhaps inevitably, Kay’s book was rejected. The reason the publisher gave was, “because Wilson did not mention the impoverished state of her attackers, we cannot publish it.” In other words, she did not inspire empathy for the men who repeatedly stabbed her and chopped up her friend – an oversight indeed.

Kay talked about the process of recovery from her trauma and told us of the things that she found helpful: her own rage, and seeing rage directed against evil as a virtue; recognizing that her rage has limits – it is not directed at all Arabs, but rather at the PA that monetarily encourages and supports such attacks, and at the UK that provides the money; and focusing as she did in her book, on people, on little details of life. “These were the things,” she said, “that helped bring me back to life.”

Kay describes Israelis as people that can be cringe-worthily helpful. “They are a beautiful, ridiculously helpful people,” she said, and ended by saying, “When you can laugh at your miserable situation, you have beaten it.”

Many purchased a signed copy of Kay’s book that evening. The story is frightful, but also strangely uplifting, and her writing is remarkably beautiful.

From bludgeoning, she emerged stronger, and inspirational.

Thank you ESRA for a remarkable evening.

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About the author

Mimi Tanaman

In Israel since 1966, Mimi Tanaman studied toward her BA and MA degrees in Psychology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While studying and raising a family, she toured the country with a bluegrass ba...

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