May 25, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel,
His name is Chris Parker, a 33-year-old homeless man in Manchester, England. Today, he’s being hailed as a hero.
On Monday, he stood outside Manchester Arena, a large venue for sporting events and concerts. Ariana Grande, an American singer, whose following includes mostly teenagers and children, was performing. Mr. Parker was there to ask for change from concertgoers as they left the arena.
His plans quickly changed when a 22-year-old terrorist, Salman Abedi, detonated a bomb in the foyer of the arena as people left the concert. Twenty-two people were killed, some as young as 8 years old, and more than 50 injured. ISIS later claimed credit for the attack.
Chris Parker was knocked to the ground by the blast, but was uninjured. He could easily have run for safety. Instead, he ran to help the victims. Abedi’s bomb had been packed with nails to cause as much death and carnage as possible – a common terrorist tactic – so Parker pulled these out of the flesh of the injured. He grabbed a t-shirt to wrap up a girl who had lost her legs in the blast, asking her “where is your mum and daddy?” He held a dying woman in his arms, comforting her.
If we are appalled by the cruelty and evil of attacks like the one in Manchester – and what civilized people aren’t? – we should also be heartened by the acts of heroism and compassion shown by people like Chris Parker. Heroism and compassion can come at any time, and sometimes come from unlikely sources – even from a homeless man, begging for change.
The psalmist tells us, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). We know all too well the ways of those who follow the path of death; we’re reminded of it every time we see news of a terror attack.
But as people of faith, we follow the path of life – the path of caring for the less fortunate, showing that care through acts of compassion and kindness, loving our neighbors as ourselves. I see you following the path of life every day in your compassionate support of God’s people in need, and that compassion gives me hope. In the face of such evil acts, let us all choose to focus on – and, more importantly, be – sources of light and life in this broken world.
God shows us the path of life. As we pray for the victims of the Manchester attack and their loved ones, let us always hold fast to Him, continuing to pray for the day when He will bless us, and all of His world, with the most precious gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President