funeral in Jerusalem - AP -  22032012
Mourners gathering around the bodies of the victims of Monday’s shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, during their funeral in Jerusalem on March 21, 2012. Photo by AP
Text size

The four victims of the shooting in southern France were buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday, while thousands of kilometers away the French police surrounded the house in Toulouse where the suspected murderer Mohamed Merah was holed up.

The four dead are Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Aryeh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego, the 7-year-old daughter of the principal of the Ozar Hatorah school, where the shooting took place.

Thousands accompanied the dead to Jerusalem's Har Hamenuhot cemetery. In the long procession marched the bereaved mothers, Eva Sandler and Yaffa Monsonego, supported by relatives as they faltered.

The list of eulogizers included rabbis, politicians and relatives. Shmuel Sandler, Jonathan's father, remembered his 8-year-old cousin Jano who was arrested in 1943, sent to the Drancy internment camp and then on to Auschwitz.

"I thought that children would never be murdered again in France or the entire world," he said.

Avishai, the oldest son of the Monsonego family, asked his sister Miriam to pray that God give their parents "strength to prevail in the hardest trial that can be endured. Don't stop, Miriam, don't stop. You are closest to God," he said.

Both mothers burst repeatedly into tears as the speakers eulogized the dead. The children held dual Israeli-French citizenship; the rabbi had lived in Israel for years and the families had asked that their kin be buried in Israel.

The slain members of the Sandler family were wrapped in white prayer shawls while the body of Monsonego's daughter was draped in black velvet. Eva Sandler is pregnant and arrived in Israel with her surviving child, a toddler.

She cried out, "Come back home," after the bodies were interred. Before the funeral, the families of the four victims, Sandler and his two sons, aged 6 and 3, and 7-year-old Miriam Monsonego, gathered around the coffins, which arrived in Israel at 5:30 A.M.

An El Al flight from Paris brought the bodies to Israel. After the plane landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, a short ceremony was held and memorial prayers were read over the plain pine coffins bearing Stars of David.

They were placed in four ambulances for transport to the Shamgar Funeral Home in Jerusalem, where the burial society prepared the bodies to be taken to the Har Hamenuhot cemetery. The families were with the bodies at the funeral home, and Monsonego spent time hugging her daughter's body, said Zaka volunteers. After the funeral she lay on top of the grave.

On Tuesday afternoon, the coffins had been taken to the Toulouse airport and placed aboard a French air force plane made available by President Nicolas Sarkozy. A memorial service was carried out at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, with Sarkozy and Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said the attack was inspired by "wild animals with hatred in their hearts." He also mentioned the murder of other children in Sderot and in terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, Mumbai and Buenos Aires.

In attendance were French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and several Israeli officials: Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi, as well as deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman.

"Our hearts are with the Jews of France and with the Ozar Hatorah institutions that took such a hard and painful blow," Yishai said in his eulogy. "The pain is unimaginable, God is testing us." He also called on the French government to do everything to ensure the safety of French Jews.

Juppe met with President Shimon Peres before the funeral.

"I came to show the French people's solidarity with the Israeli people, who feel as if their children have been murdered," Juppe said after the meeting.

According to Peres, "This is a unique expression of the deep relations between France and Israel. Your arrival and the actions of President Sarkozy during these difficult events prove that Israel and France are on the same front in search of peace and an all-out war against terrorism."

Juppe added, "You can be confident: France is doing everything and will do everything so that there will be full safety in schools and synagogues, so that a criminal act such as this will never happen again." At the end of his eulogy, Juppe said, "May their souls be bound in the bond of life."

The Sandler and Monsonego families are remaining in Jerusalem and will sit the seven-day mourning period at relatives' houses in the capital.