Thousands of mourners gathered at a Jerusalem cemetery Tuesday for the funeral of four Jews killed by an Islamist gunman in Paris in an attack that shook the Jewish community.
Israel held an emotional funeral Tuesday for four Jews killed by an Islamist gunman in Paris, with thousands turning out to mourn the victims of an attack that shook the Jewish community.
Shock and sorrow was palpable in the crowd as family members and top Israeli officials stood to pay tribute to the four men who were shot dead on Friday when an Islamic extremist stormed a kosher supermarket.
Tearful mourners held placards bearing portraits of Tunisian national Yoav Hattab, 21, along with French citizens Philippe Braham, 45, Yohan Cohen, 20, and Francois-Michel Saada, 63, with the words: “I am dead because I’m Jewish.”
Some waved the Israeli flag while others hugged each other.
The four were among 17 people gunned down in Paris during three days of bloodshed that began with a grisly attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in violence that convulsed France and sent shock waves through its Jewish community, the third-largest in the world.
The bodies of the four Jews were flown to Israel early on Tuesday and laid out in shrouds in front of an Israeli national flag for the funeral.
Afterwards they were buried in a more private ceremony at the sprawling Givat Shaul cemetery on the western outskirts of Jerusalem.
“This is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel,” said President Reuven Rivlin, addressing the victims by name as he fought back tears during the ceremony attended by more than 2,500 people including Israeli political leaders.
“We wanted you alive.”
Rivlin said that it was unacceptable that Jews were once again living in fear in Europe.
“We cannot allow that in 2015, 70 years since the end of World War II, Jews are afraid to walk in the streets of Europe” wearing a skullcap and prayer shawl, he said.
On a sunny but cold winter morning, French flags were flying across the city alongside signs reading: “Jerusalem is with the French people, we are all Charlie”.
The attack on the supermarket has left the Jewish community in both France and Israel badly shaken.
Lighting a torch of remembrance, Yonatan Saada said his father had longed to move to Israel.
“He was in love with Israel, he wanted to live here,” he said, his voice breaking.
“He’s here now.”
– ‘Crying with me’ –
Speaking in Hebrew, a shell-shocked Valerie Braham paid tribute to her husband Philippe.
“I am crying but I know that you’re all crying with me,” she said.
Gary Buchwald, a friend of the Brahams who flew in from Paris with the family, told AFP the impact of the attack was devastating.
“His wife is in pieces. They had to literally carry her to the plane. I am in shock like all of the French community in France,” he said.
“She won’t get over this. It is not three million people marching in the street who will change this reality: other attacks will happen,” he said.
“We only have two choices: either we fight back or we run.”
For many Israelis, the killings were further evidence that France is becoming hostile territory for Jews and proof that the authorities there are unable to protect them.
But French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, who was representing Paris at the funeral, sought to reassure the Jewish community, saying anti-Semitism “has no place in France” and vowing the government would wage an unstinting campaign against “all forms and acts of anti-Semitism.”
The Jewish community in France numbers 500,000 to 600,000 people. French migration to Israel hit a record high last year of 6,600 people, and many believe the trend will accelerate.
– World waking up –
For many, Friday’s supermarket attack brought back memories of the March 2012 attack in the French city of Toulouse when another Islamist gunman killed three young children and a teacher at a Jewish school.
They were buried in the same Jerusalem cemetery.
Addressing the crowds, Netanyahu said world leaders were beginning to understand the threat posed by “extremist Islam”.
“Islamist terror … is not just the enemy of the Jewish people but of all humanity. It is time all people of all cultures united to eject these elements from among us.”
Although Jewish people have the right to live anywhere in the world in safety, they know where their real home is, Netanyahu said.
“I believe that they know deep in their hearts that they have only one country, Israel, their historical homeland which will always be ready to receive them with open arms as much-loved sons,” he said.