Murder of American Teen In Terror Attack Strengthens US, Israeli Bond

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The death of an American teenager in a suicide terror attack here knits the U.S. and Israel closer together, Israeli and U.S. officials said at the girl's funeral over the weekend.

Fourteen-year-old Abigail Litle, an American citizen, was one of 16 people murdered in a suicide bomb attack on a Haifa bus last week. She was one of nine school-aged children and students to die in the attack.

Litle was a devout Baptist Christian, who had moved here with her parents when she was only a few months old. She lived here with her three brothers and sister and attended Israeli school.

"She was one of my favorite kids in the congregation. Her face was always shiny," said Shmuel Aweida, pastor and close friend of the Litle family on Monday. "She would always sit in the first row, holding her Bible [and smiling]."

Hundreds of school friends, teachers and members of Evangelical Christian and Messianic Jewish communities attended her funeral at the Christian cemetery in Haifa on Sunday.

"Today, again, Americans and Israelis mourn and today, again, Americans and Israelis share the sorrow of the loss of our beloved Abigail," U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer said at the funeral.

"She is a true bridge between our two countries, having been born in the United States and now in eternal rest in the Land of Israel," he said.

"She is a true bridge between our many faiths, so dedicated as she was to family and to God and so dedicated as she was to her friends and her community," he added.

Knesset member Yuval Steinitz, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, represented the Israeli government at the funeral.

"Your coffin was draped in two flags, of Israel and the US - the flag of the strongest democracy in the world and that of one of the smallest but most vital democracies in the world," Steinitz said.

"On your coffin there was a cross, but on the flag there was the Star of David and this symbolizes the hope that you and your family mark for courageous and new friendship between us," he said.

Aweida said that Abigail's family felt that they were a part of Israel. Abigail was seen as an Israeli and had always spoken Hebrew with him, he said.

"They [the family] think Israel is a special place because they believe in the Bible," Aweida said. "They didn't even consider burying her in the States."

Aweida's own children were close friends of Abigail's. On the morning of her funeral his eight-year-old son cut out a big paper heart and pasted letters on it in Hebrew that said, "Jesus loves Abigail."

"It's been quite tough on them," Aweida said of his children. But the family and friends are taking comfort in their faith.

"We know where she went," he said. They have a "certain hope" that even a tragedy like this can't take away, he added.