From assassinations of Arab kids to the persistent problem of Jewish extremism, tales of brutality and violence are frequent in Israel and Palestine. However, every once in a while, a heartwarming story involving the residents of the conflicted region also makes the headlines, showing the world that there is still some hope left.
The inspirational story of Scottish activist Marsha Gladstone is one of those few.
Resident of Glasgow, Scotland, the 60-year-old was devastated when her teenage son Yoni Jesner was killed during a deadly bus attack in Tel Aviv in 2002. The 19-year-old was studying religious Zionism in a Jewish seminary and was also involved in voluntary work in the West Bank area.
Even though Jesner, who had just won a place to study medicine at King's College in London, died in an alleged Hamas attack, his family did the unexpected and donated one of his kidneys to a 7-year-old Palestinian girl, Yasmin Rumeileh, who was fighting a terminal disease.
“I think the most important principle here is that life was given to another human being,” the victim’s older brother told the press at the time, while the girl’s father also expressed his gratitude by saying that they are “all one people.”
More than 10 years down the line, Gladtsone still misses her son, but she is also friends with the young Palestinian girl and her family, whose life her child had saved after his tragic death. She even recently made a trip to Jerusalem to catch up on her progress.
“Her family welcomed me into their home and I was delighted to see Yasmin had turned into a lovely young woman not much older than Yoni was when he was killed,” she said. “It just makes us feel a little bit closer to Yoni.”
Gladstone, who has four other children, has welcomed 13 new grandchildren into her life since Jesner’s death. She has also founded the Yoni Jesner Foundation to keep her son’s name alive.
“The doctors asked us if we would allow his organs to be given to save others and I agreed immediately,” the former teacher recalled. “They were given to Jewish people and a desperately ill little 7-year-old Arab girl, Yasmin Rumeileh, who was dying from kidney failure. It has been so comforting because Yoni was keen to become a doctor and save lives.”
Apparently, she was horrified when her husband first told her that her young son’s kidneys were being transplanted into a Palestinian girl, but she calmed down within minutes after realizing it didn't matter who the recipients were “as long as some good came out of our terrible loss.”
“I tried to remember she was only a little girl, no matter what her background and she was alive thanks to Yoni,” Gladstone explained, adding that the transplant team only took organs from Jesner which could be removed within a couple of hours since he had to be buried shortly afterwards.
The Yoni Foundation helps young people become leaders and encourages organ donation from Jews to others outside the religion. The charity also hosts an annual awards ceremony that honors Jewish teenagers for their voluntary service, along with running a scholarship program that aims to nurture “other young people like Yoni.”
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Find out more about Marsha Gladstone’s remarkable work in the video posted below.