'We weep because we are strong': Toulouse shooting victims buried in Jerusalem

 

Jerusalem

Thousands of mourners gathered at a cemetery in Jerusalem yesterday to bury three children and a teacher murdered in the attack on a Jewish school in France on Monday.

During the two-hour ceremony, Israel's parliamentary Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, told the crowd, which included black-hatted ultra-Orthodox Jews, religious leaders and politicians, that the Jewish people "once again find themselves facing beasts ... driven out of their minds by hatred".

Shlomo Amar, the chief Sephardi rabbi, sobbed as he delivered a eulogy over the bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his sons, Arieh and Gabriel, aged five and four, who were killed when a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse. Eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, was also shot dead in the attack. "I remind our enemies that we do not weep because we are weak," he said, his speech repeatedly interrupted by anguished wailing from the crowd. "We weep because we are strong."

At the request of both families, the bodies were flown back for burial in Israel. The children were French-Israeli citizens, while Mr Sandler, who leaves behind a pregnant widow and their toddler, had lived in Israel for many years.

Relatives of the victims addressed the crowd. Avishai Monsonego, the brother of the murdered girl, appealed to God to grant his parents the strength "to endure the worst trial that can be endured". His mother had to be carried to her daughter's body.

As the ceremony drew to a close, male mourners, watched by women from a distance, wound their way to the burial plots overlooking the highway to Tel Aviv. Laying her hands on the graves of her husband and sons after the men had dispersed, Mr Sandler's widow, Eva, said in French: "Come back home."

French police said the suspect in the killings, Mohamed Merah, 24, claimed to be seeking revenge for the deaths of Palestinian children.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, condemned the attacks. "It is time for those criminals to stop exploiting the name of Palestine through their terrorist actions, or claim victory to the rights of Palestinian children," he said. The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, who flew to Israel for the burials, promised the perpetrator would be brought to justice.

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