Lifestyle & Belief

Victims in Toulouse shooting laid to rest in Jerusalem

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The funeral for the victims of Monday's murders in France took place in Jerusalem today. Both of Israel's chief rabbis spoke, along with the French foreign minister and Israeli officials. (Photo by Matthew Bell.)

The victims of the deadly attack in Toulouse, France, on Monday were buried Wednesday in Jerusalem.

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Simultaneously, French police engaged in an hours-long standoff with the man suspected of killing killer of three Jewish children and a 30-year-old rabbi in a shooting at a Jewish school on Monday.

The victims were laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. About 2,000 people turned out for the funeral in perfect weather, sunny and warm, for a ceremony that lasted about two hours. The mood was deeply somber.

The bodies of Jonathan Sandler, his two sons, 4-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Arieh, along with a 7-year-old girl named Miriam Monsenego, were flown to Israel on Tuesday night. They were wrapped in prayer shawls and dark fabric, and then carried on the shoulders of mourners to their final resting place.

Among those who addressed the crowd were relatives of the victims, both of Israel’s chief rabbis, along with several Israeli officials. Some of the speakers broke down with emotion at the podium.

Despite the overwhelming sense of tragedy, Israel’s Minister for Public Diplomacy Yuli Edelstein had high praise for French authorities. When asked about reports of the suspected killer sharing the ideology of al-Qaeda, Edelstein said he was not surprised.

“Their raison d’être is to kill Jews, to kill everyone who is not part of their perverted and terrible ideology,” Edelstein told a few reporters before the funeral got started. “It’s our mutual task to make sure that they don’t succeed. And the French government and the French security forces gave a very good example on that.”

Edelstein said he hoped any future attacks would be thwarted before they are carried out. Many of those in attendance came from Israel’s tight-knit French-speaking community.

“It’s very hard for everyone here because we all feel related to what happened in France,” said Gary, a 24-year-old student from Paris.

Four years ago, he came to Israel and decided to stay. Now, he lives in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

“When some kind of tragedy like this is happening, you just can’t think about anything but ‘join me.’ I think (Israel is) the place Jewish people should be,” he said.

Others agreed. The murders in Toulouse this week strengthened their belief that the only way for French Jews to be truly safe is to leave.

Rabbi Mordachai Ben-Shushan is originally from Nice, in the south of France. But he has been living in Jerusalem for five years. Ben-Shushan said his message to the Jewish community back in France is simple.

“All the Jews have to come here to Israel,” he said. “(Israel) is fundamentally the state of the Jewish people and they have to understand — to prepare themselves to come to Israel.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe traveled to Jerusalem with the bodies of the victims and spoke at the funeral on Wednesday. Juppe disagreed that Jews are not safe in France.

“Each time a Jew is attacked (in France),” he said, “the whole nation is targeted. France will not give in to terror.”

Juppe added that, “anti-Semitism goes against the values of France.”

The suspected killer reportedly told French negotiators on Wednesday that he was attempting to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children with his actions.

In response, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad condemned the murders as “a cowardly terrorist attack.”

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