Yoni Jesner and Ahmed Khatib were, respectively, a Jewish teenager and a Palestinian boy, whose organs were donated to children from the opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after their violent deaths.[1] Yoni Jesner died from a suicide bombing in 2002, while Ahmed Khatib was shot dead in 2005.

The Guardian, ABC, The Sunday Times, theh Telegraph, the Gulf Times, Dawn, and the Church Times all focused on the generosity and faith of the two families, the Jesners and the Khatibs, in the midst of the conflict.[2][1][3][4][5][6][7]

In 2007 the stories of two victims of, Yoni Jesner and Ahmed Khatib, were told together, in the same broadcast of Heart and Soul, an award‐winning program by BBC World Service[8][9]

Yoni JesnerEdit

Jonathan "Yoni" Jesner was a 19-year old Scottish Jew, who was murdered by a suicide bomber on September 19, 2002, in Tel Aviv.[10] Yoni became one of 220 victims of the bombing attacks in 2002, killed when a terrorist detonated a bomb on a bus on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.[11][10] Hamas took responsibility for the attack.[12][13][14]

Yoni was born in Glasgow. He was named after Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed while leading the successful operation Entebbe to release hostages from Air France flight, hijacked by Palestinian terrorists.[14]

Jesner dreamed of becoming a doctor, and was planning to attend a medical school in London.[15] He was also interested in his Jewish heritage. He came to Israel to study in a Jewish seminary. He passed up a life of religious study for that of pursuing medicine, on the basis that the commandment to save a life takes precedence over all other commands.[16] He loved the country, and had planned to return to Israel as a doctor after finishing his education in London.[13][12]

In the suicide attack on the Tel Aviv bus on which Yoni was riding, a Palestinian suicide bomber wearing a jacket on a hot day blew up on a bus in Tel Aviv and killed six passengers.[17] Among them was Yoni Jesner, who sustained a critical head injury. After Yoni's parents consented to have his life support machine switched off, they agreed to allow the donation of one of his kidneys to an unknown recipient.[13][12]

It was donated to Yasmin Abu Ramila, a Palestinian girl from East Jerusalem.[18] At the time of the surgery Yasmin was 7 years old. She was born with kidney failure. Most of her life, her parents had been obliged to take her to West Jerusalem several times a week for treatment by Israeli doctors. She had been waiting to receive a transplant for two years.[13][12]

Yoni's brother Ari spoke to the media about family decision. He said: "I think the most important principle here is that life was given to another human being."[13] Scott Simon commented on the symbolism of Yoni's wish to become a doctor never becoming a reality, yet still saving a life even in his death:

Yoni Jesner will not live to become a doctor, but just as surely, he will be remembered as a healer. Yasmin Rumeileh's father, Abu, who runs a tea and coffee shop in East Jerusalem, said this week, "We are one family. They saved my daughter. Part of their son is living in my daughter. We are all one people."[12]

After the surgery Yasmin was doing well, and the doctors believed she had a very good chances to live a normal life.[12]

Ahmed KhatibEdit

Ahmed Khatib was born in Jenin. In November of 2005, on the first day of Eid el-Fitr, Ahmed was shot twice by a soldier from Israeli Defense Forces, who mistook a toy gun Ahmed was holding for a real one. The other Palestinian children, who played together with Ahmed, confirmed that he had a toy gun that looked "like an Uzi" [19][1] Eleven-year-old Ahmad Tawfiq said that "the boys stood among five Palestinian fighters exchanging gunfire with Israeli soldiers in jeeps." [19] Israel military officials said that their soldiers came under fire in several locations from Palestinian gunmen, and returned the fire. They apologized for killing an innocent boy.[1][20] Ahmed was one of 56 Palestinian children killed in the conflict in 2005.[21]

Ahmed was taken to an Israeli hospital in Haifa,[19] but the doctors were unable to save his life. After his death his parents donated six of their son's organs to four Jewish and two Arab citizens of Israel. Ahmed's heart was transplanted into a 12-year-old Druze Arab girl. A Jewish teenager received his lungs. Ahmed's liver was divided between a seven-month-old Jewish girl, who did not survive the surgery,[22] and a 58-year-old Jewish woman. His kidneys were divided between a three-year-old Jewish girl and a five-year-old Bedouin Arab boy, Mohamed Kabua.[1][20]

Ehud Olmert called Ahmed's father, Ismail. Olmert apologized to him, and invited him to visit his office in Jerusalem. Ismail said: "I will go if it will promote peace. I will tell him one thing: children have nothing to do with this conflict."[1] The father said: "My son was dead, but six Israelis now have a part of a Palestinian in them, and maybe he is still alive in them."[2]

Not everyone in Jenin approved of the organ donations. Some neighbors asked Ahmed's parents "how they could give their child's body parts to the people who killed him", but Ahmed's mother Abla said she was visited by ten other mothers who lost their children in the conflict who expressed support for her decision.[1] In response to a question from Ahmed's father Ismail, the mufti of Jenin assured him there were no religious objections to the donation of the organs, or to them going to either Israelis or Jews.[1]

At Ahmed's funeral, Zakaria Zubeidi, then the leader of Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, helped carry the coffin. Of the organ donations, Zubeidi said:

When we heard Ahmed's father decided to donate the organs, we blessed the step ... Despite Jenin's reputation for the suicide bomber and the bomb belt, the people of Jenin camp love life and granted life to five or six children and didn't distinguish whether they were Jewish or Muslim or Christian because our problem is not with the Jewish people as the Jewish people, but with the occupation.[1]

Ahmed's father Ismail used to work as a motor mechanic in Israel together with Israeli Jews for many years. His knowledge of ordinary people, his co-workers from Israel, helped Ismail to make his decision about the organs donation. His son Ahmed was born between the first intifada and the second intifada. Practically the only Israelis Ahmed saw were soldiers. He was growing up confronted by routine violence. On the day of his death, Ahmed went to visit Jenin's "martyrs' graveyard", the cemetery for Palestinian militants who died fighting Israel. Like most Palestinian children, Ahmed considered these men and women to be heroes, prompting his father to remark that he was unsure if Ahmed himself would have approved his decision to donate his son's organs to Israelis.[1] After his son's death he opened the Ahmed Khatib Center for Peace, a youth center; as a result of the popularity of the center's filmmaking course, he helped launch the effort to reopen Cinema Jenin.[23]

The story about Ahmed Khatib's death and his parents' decision to donate their son's organs became the subject for the PBS documentary "Heart of Jenin".[22]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 "Ahmed's gift of life". The Guardian. 11 November 2005. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Street Stories – Life beyond death". 6 July 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  3. Church Times – Radio: A Polish influx
  4. [1]
  5. "Emma Klein and Judy Cooper: Face to faith". The Guardian. 30 September 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  6. Chris McGreal. "Ahmed's gift of life". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  7. "A gesture of both peace and resistance: Ahmed’s gift of life ; November 12, 2005". DAWN. 12 November 2005. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  8. Gilchrist, Jim. "Radio – Living". Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  9. "Fresh FM". Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "American Jewish Year Book 2003". Google Books. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  11. "Suicide and Other Bombing Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles (Sept 1993)". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel). 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 SCOTT SIMON (22 September 2002). "Hope from the Middle East". NPR. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 "Blast victim's final gift". BBC. 22 September 2002. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Jonathan (Yoni) Jesner". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel). 22 September 2002. 
  15. "Legacy of bomb victim". The Jewish Chronicle. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  16. Jonathan Sacks (2007). To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility. Random House, Inc.. ISBN 0805211969. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  17. Orit Brawer Ben-Davida, "Ranking deaths in Israeli society: Premature deaths and organ donation – Mortality: Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying", Mortality, Volume 11, Issue 1, February 2006, pages 79–98
  18. Philps, Alan (24 September 2002). "Organ donation breaches divide". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Scott Wilson (12 November 2005). "Life and Hope Flow From Palestinian Boy's Death". Washington Post. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Stephen Farrell (9 November 2005). "A victory over death and hate.A Palestinian boy has saved Jews and Arabs alike after he was shot by an Israeli soldier". The Times. 
  21. Remember These Children – 2005,
  22. 22.0 22.1 Stephen Farrell (July 7th, 2009). "Heart of Jenin". PBS. 
  23. ""Heart of Jenin – epilogue"". PBS. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 

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