The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Tsunami tragedy forms a Palestinian-Israeli friendship

An act of kindness by a Lutheran Palestinian couple enabled an Israeli couple to reach home after the Dec. 26 tsunami, which left almost 150,000 people dead and thousands more injured, hit southeast Asia just after Christmas.

Sally and Sami Khoury, both 29, and Yossi and Inbar Gross, both 30, found themselves stranded together on their hotel roof in the resort area of Phuket, Thailand, but the Grosses lost their passports as well as money in the tsunami. The two couples stuck together until they reached the airport the next day.

“I didn’t even think of them as being Israelis. My first instinct was to do the humane thing, to help them,” said Sami Khoury, from East Jerusalem, who gave the Grosses money to buy airplane tickets. “I can see the interest in a Palestinian helping an Israeli, but the thought didn’t even cross our minds at the time,” he said.

The Khourys had just finished eating breakfast on their first morning at the beach when they noticed a crowd gathering near the shore. Not knowing what it was, they also walked down to see.

“At first people didn’t realize what was happening,” recalled Khoury from Jerusalem a week after the disaster. “Then we saw yachts floating too close to shore and the beach chairs were floating away in the water. There were was a huge suction and the beach suddenly disappeared.”

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