The Messianic Jewish community in Israel was in shock upon learning of the news Friday that Josiah Litle, the eldest son of Phillip and Heidi Litle, had murdered his wife and mother of their three young girls.
Daria Litle, the 31-year-old Messianic wife and mother, was found unconscious in the living room of their apartment in Haifa and was pronounced dead by medical rescue personnel at the scene. Her husband Josiah was arrested after he reported that he had strangled her and hit her in the head with a hammer.
“I work in a night club. I came back around 5 a.m. completely sober,” Josiah Litle told investigators, according to Ynet. “I was sitting and drinking beer. One of our daughters woke up and my wife woke up, too. She saw me drinking and got angry at me. She asked, ‘Are you drinking again?’ An argument started. She pushed me and then I pushed her back. I didn’t mean to kill her,” he told police.
Daria’s father said that she wanted to leave her husband, and that’s why he murdered her. Complaints of domestic violence had previously been reported to police and the husband was sent for evaluation, but no further action was taken.
An incomprehensible tragedy
Over the weekend condolences continued to pour in from the Messianic Jewish community in Israel and around the world for the families involved.
The parents of Josiah, who is now in custody for the murder of his wife, have known tragedy in the past. Philip and Heidi Litle met while studying at MIT and were married shortly after Heidi’s graduation. Philip is originally from Missouri and Heidi from New Jersey. In 1989 the couple left the US for Israel, where Phillip continued his studies at the renowned Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.
The couple raised five children (including the oldest son Josiah) who grew up in Haifa. Then, on March 5th, 2003, their second child, Abigail, was killed in a terrorist bus bombing while on her way home from school. She was just 13-years-old. In total 17 were killed, nine of whom were children and teenagers, and 53 people were injured in the attack. Like each of the Litle children (including Josiah), Abigail had chosen to believe in Yeshua as her Messiah and was baptized before she died.
Around the country many were touched by Abigail’s life and witness and attended her funeral. Former Member of Knesset Yuval Steinitz (Likud) acknowledged their sacrifice and how the Christian family had linked their fate with Israel’s. He welcomed them, and Messianic believers, as partners in Israel’s cause, a rare recognition by a public figure. As a result, the Litle family were granted Israeli citizenship and their children all served in the IDF.
Not long after the couple arrived in the country, Philip was appointed representative of the Baptist church in Israel. He served as the national director of Or B’Aretz (Light in the Land) until 2013, an evangelistic organization affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ. The couple are also involved in discipleship and leadership development of the local body of believers together with their local Messianic congregation Beit Eliyahu in Haifa.
On Shabbat the congregation held a special meeting “dedicated to prayer and mutual support as a stunned and hurting body.” The announcement read was based on the scripture:
“Therefore let us approach with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in a time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Some of that grace and mercy is being offered by Messianic Jews around the country in messages expressing the “shock, horror and pain we all feel together with the families.”
No one can ever fully grasp just how hard this tragedy has hit both families.
The parents of Daria have lost their daughter, and her three children are left without their mother and a father who is in jail.
The Litle family faces the reality that their firstborn baptized son murdered his wife.
One can hardly imagine how these three young girls will struggle to find meaning in life after losing both parents to something like this. No one could ever be prepared for or comprehend such a tragedy. The Messianic Jewish community in Israel is trying its best to bring some comfort and support to the families and the three surviving girls, who will be needing ongoing care for a long time to come. May God have mercy on us all.
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