Lessons of a Broken Heart.

“It’s odd, isn’t it? People die every day and the world goes on like nothing happened. But when it’s a person you love, you think every one should stop and take notice. That they ought to cry and light candles and tell you that you’re not alone.” (Kristina McMorris, Letters from Home)

Thirteen year old American-Israeli Hallel Ariel was brutally murdered by a 17 year old terrorist in Israel. Heartbreaking! That murder reminded me of another American-Israeli, 13 year old Koby Mandell murdered May 8, 2001. His friend 14 years old Yosef Ishran died at the hands of the same terrorists.

In Jerusalem I met with Sherri Mandell (pictured) Koby’s mother. She shared about the great depths of grief she experienced. In her book “The Blessings of a Broken Heart,” she wrote about life after Koby. “We have to walk about five blocks to get to Burger King. We’re hungry, tired and cranky so when we pass a vegetarian restaurant – we decide to stop there to eat. I think we are all relieved not to have to feel the sadness of eating hamburgers without Koby.

Unknown“My kids go to pick up the drinks at the counter of the restaurant, and I close my eyes and hold a napkin against my eyes as I cry and I wonder: how am I going to go on? How am I going to stand up? How am I going to get the strength to leave this restaurant and take my children home on the bus?”

Grief overwhelmed her until her surviving childrn lovingly said, “Mother, we know how deeply you feel the loss of Koby, but please understand we feel that loss too. But we have suffered two severe tragedies. We lost Koby but since he died, we lost our mother too.” Sherri knew they were right. She told me they had a meaningful time as a family and considered how they could remember Koby appropriately. The Koby Mandell Foundation was launched. They knew the deep impact of grief terror inflicted on their own family and they knew others shared that sorrow with their own traumatic experiences.

Camp Koby

They launched Camp Koby for teens and youth, where counseling and encouragement were prioritized. Jewish and Arab victims of terror are brought together.

Sherrie explained they are wary of each other on the first day. By day two they hear heart-wrenching testimonies. The barriers recede. By midweek the teens laugh and cry with each other. She said they draw to each other through their common need and one teen with a tragic infirmity relates to another with the same predicament. Their nationalistic differences are forgotten, at least for the moment. By the end of the week, Sherrie told me, they share email addresses so they can maintain contact. (Online visit The Koby Mandell Foundation – kobymandell.org -to see the scope of their vision).

imagesOn the website the Mandells have posted comments written by Koby. One is called: ‘What makes a Good Parent.’ He wrote: “If I were my parents I would always stick up for my kid because if you don’t, your kid begins to feel bad and thinks that you don’t care about him. Anyway, your kid always needs somebody to stick up for him.

“I would also let my kid wear whatever he wants and make his own decisions, because kids need freedom as much as parents do, if not more. I’m not saying you can let your kid do whatever he wants, but don’t confine him, and let him make his own decisions.” (Read the rest at the website)

Koby liked to quote – “Taking the Bully by the Horns” by Kathy Noll. “I was once bullied by a jerk who wanted to show off in front of his friends . He took a chair from me during school when I was sitting down and I fell on the floor. I said to my friends that guy’s an idiot and he heard me. He started to hit and kick me and then walked away. I didn’t hit him back because he was bigger and older than me. A week later my father found out and we ran into him at the pizza place. My father went up to him and threatened to break his nose off if he touched me again. Since then he has not bothered me. I felt good because he was punished and embarrassed. (More at the website.’

Koby had quite a sense of humour and some of his favorite jokes are published on the website: “As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it just seems that way.”

“Millionaire is dying, he calls his 3 closest friends to his bedside. “I know they say you can’t take it with you when you go, but I want to try.” He said, “I’m going to give you $1 Million apiece, if you will place it in my coffin at my funeral.” They agreed, and at his funeral, they all placed envelopes in the casket. 2 Months pass, and they meet for lunch. One friend says “I have a confession, I only put $200,000 in the envelope”. Another friend says “Yeah, I only put in $300,000.” The third says “I’m SO disappointed! He was our friend! How could you do this? … My envelope contained a check for $1,000,000”.”

These murdered terror victims are more than statistics. They were vibrant living, loved and valued. Not to be forgotten. I am reminded author Latoya Alston wrote “Loss is only temporary when you believe in God!”


Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at







Tom and Jerry Inspire Terrorists

9091posterTom and Jerry cartoons and video games are behind a rising tide of violence in the Middle East according to a top Egyptian intelligence agency. At a conference entitled “The Media and the Culture of Violence” at Cairo University, Salan Abdel Sadeq said, “Tom and Jerry portrays violence in a funny manner, and gives the impression that, yes, I can hit him, and I can blow him up with explosives.”

Social media in the Middle East lit up with comments. One person asked, “So it’s not the Moslem Brotherhood after all.” Another complained her daughter loved Tom and Jerry.

But Sadeq did not attribute the outbreak of violence and extremist just to the cat and the mouse. He went further.

“Video games are spreading…it has become normal for a young man to sit for long hours playing video games, killing and spilling blood. He is happy and content with that,” he said.

He added, according to the website Egyptianstreets.com, that youths are “faced with social pressures that push them to resort to violence, which they consider normal and understandable.”

While my first reaction was to defend the 1940’s cat and mouse cartoon characters, the more I considered he had some validity. While I hesitate to call Tom or Jerry terrorists, I have to admit they have always introduced a goodly amount of biff, bang, boom in their encounters!


The NSW Education Department has an excellent website to help parents understand this very dilemma (www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au) They ask: “Does cartoon violence make kids more aggressive?” “At a glance research indicates that exposure to violence makes it seem more acceptable to kids. Today’s animation and games are so realistic it can be hard for kids to tell the difference between ‘pretend’ violence and live action, making some animation just as disturbing as the real thing,” they say. Along with Tom and Jerry they also mention ‘The Road Runner and other animated favorites.”

sleeping_beauty039s_castle_185965Appropriately (I thought) they mentioned Sleeping Beauty and the jealous witch. (I am amazed at the prominence of witches and demons in children’s books. Once we preached messages about this content today we seem to have shrugged our shoulders in surrender).

After a lengthy study the Australian Psychology Society said: “it is generally agreed that prolonged exposure to media violence is one of the many interacting factors which lead to children being more likely to display aggressive behaviour in the long term. It is also agreed that the social context is important in determining the effects of exposure to violent media; e.g., if an adult helps the child interpret and critique the viewed material, the negative effects are lessened. Later research on violent video games has largely supported these effects of violent media, showing that exposure to video game violence leads to increased aggression, an effect that has been demonstrated both as a short-term consequence and longer-term effect of excessive exposure.” (www.psychology.org.au)


A study authored by L.Rowell Huesman and Brad Bushman, both professors at the University of Michigan found: “Violence depicted on television, in films and video games raises the risk of aggressive behavior in adults and young viewers and poses a serious threat to public health, according to a new study.”

After 50 years of research and analysis of the impact of violence in the media, the professors declared “only smoking is a greater risk for public health than video games!”

The website gamepolitics.com responded by interviewing Huesman who said, “Please be aware that an implication of the body of research I reviewed is that the mass media and video games are very powerful teachers. Video games can teach wonderful things or they can teach bad things. It would be a shame if my review were used to indict all video games. There are many great games that teach kids very valuable things.”

The most important lessons children learn most often comes from parents. By stopping a violent cartoon, game or video and explaining why it is not appropriate is the best influence of all.

The Apostle Paul was a great witness to his followers. His behavior was so impeccable he was able to write to the church in Philippi saying: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pleasing, whatever things are commendable, if there is any excellence of character and if anything praiseworthy, think about these things. And the things which you have learned and received and heard about and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians Chapter 4, verses 8 and 9)

“Seen in me” he wrote. What an amazing witness? It is true however, children learn a great deal from watching their elders and observing what we allow into their lives. The Letter by Paul was great advice then and it remains the best advice for our children today.