Last week a vicious bomb attack in Jerusalem killed one and 38 were wounded. The one was a significant lady. The fatally injured was evangelical Christian Mary Jane Gardner, a British national who was in Israel studying Hebrew. The 55 year old Gardner worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Togo where she lived for 20 years.
“I cannot tell you how highly regarded she was. She was an extremely gutsy person, highly intelligent, with huge drive,” said Eddie Arthur, executive director of Wycliffe. “She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and all those she worked with in Togo.”
Mary Gardner had been studying for the past four months at Yad Hashmona, a messianic community outside Jerusalem.
Her parents although shocked by the news of her death responded gracefully. “Mary was a very special person and we thought the world of her. She was devoted to her work and was well liked wherever she went,” they said in a statement. “We are proud of her and all that she has achieved in her life and feel truly blessed to have had her in our lives.”
The Guardian reported. “She was an evangelical Christian tourist [and] a volunteer at the Bible Translators Society at Yad Hashmona,” a moshav (village) run by believers, said Calev Myers, director of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an Israeli civil rights organization that defends the legal rights of Christians and Jewish believers in Jesus.
Officials worked long hours to identify her, as she was not carrying any identification at the time of the blast and had no relatives in Israel searching for her at local hospitals after the attack.
‘Callous and Disgusting’
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the attack a “callous and disgusting act of terrorism directed against innocent civilians which I condemn unreservedly. “I would like to express the UK’s unwavering support for the people of Israel in the face of such horrific acts,” he said.
My wife Yvonne and I feel this fatality deeply. We recently lived and worked as Christians in Jerusalem for five years. We have many Christian friends who still serve the Lord there. Mary Gardner was one who had responded to the Lord’s command to ‘go into all the world’ and specifically ‘to the Jew first.’ (So many choose to miss that Jew first command!)
Yvonne and I often enjoyed the tranquility and hospitality of the messianic community at Yad Hashmona. Many of our Bridges for Peace staff functions were held there. Not only are the cabins comfortable and the Judean hills relaxing, the biblical village on the grounds allows visitors to travel back to the times of Christ and the traditions of that era.
We conducted praise and worship and prayer services in the replicas of the First and Second Temples so faithfully reconstructed.
Jewish characteristics are maintained in the community: the moshav’s common language is Hebrew, holy days are observed according to the Jewish calendar, and young men and women living there, serve in the Israeli army.
Yad Hashmona is settled in the Judean hills about 700 metres above sea level and significantly is located on the road to Emmaus, where Yeshua (Jesus), after his resurrection, met two of his disciples, who initially did not recognize him (Luke 24:13-16).
About the name Yad Hashmona, the members of the community issued this explanation.
“Yad Hashmona” means Memorial to the Eight.
“Sometimes it is written as Yad Ha8. The name was given by the founding settlers in memory of eight Jewish refugees, who escaped in 1938 from Austria to Finland, and who were surrendered by the Finns to the Gestapo in November 1942.
“The eight refugees were taken to Auschwitz, where seven of them were murdered. The lone survivor, Dr. Georg Kolman, who lost his wife and baby son in the extermination camp, made aliya (immigrated) to Eretz Israel (The Land of Israel).
“The Finnish founders of the Moshav wished to somehow atone on behalf of their nation for the surrender of the eight to the Nazis, and they viewed their contribution to the Land of Israel as a public request for forgiveness.
“Notwithstanding the Finnish government’s refusal to surrender all of their Jewish citizens to the Germans, the action taken on Finnish soil against the eight Austrian Jews remained a heavy burden on the Finns’ conscience.
“Nevertheless, it wasn’t until November 2000 that the Finnish government and Church leaders dedicated a memorial to the eight in Helsinki. A monument was erected in the Observatory Hill, opposite Helsinki’s South Harbour, from where the refugees embarked on the death ship SS Hohenhörn.
“In the presence of representatives of the Jewish community in Finland, the Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, begged the forgiveness of the entire Jewish people.”
The murder of Mary Jane Gardner adds to the legacy symbolized by the vision and purpose of Yad Hashmona.
Reminds me of John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”