Thousands Attend Funeral of Israeli Killed in Turkey New Year's Attack

Turnout at Leanne Nasser's funeral was protest against religious Arab circles' criticism of her desire to celebrate New Year's Eve. Ex-MK: 'This ISIS-ism must be uprooted.'

Women attending the funeral on Jan. 3, 2017 in Tira of Leanne Nasser, who was killed during a terror attack on an Istanbul nightclub on Dec. 31, 2016.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Thousands attended the funeral on Tuesday of 18-year-old Leanne Nasser, the Israeli killed in the Istanbul terror attack on New Year's Eve. The funeral procession departed from Nasser’s home in Tira and included public officials, members of Knesset and local residents. A day of mourning was declared in the Arab city, which is located in central Israel.

For many in attendance the huge turnout was seen as a form of protest against those who criticized Nasser and her friends for celebrating the non-Muslim holiday in a Turkish nightclub where alcohol was served.

Nasser’s coffin arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport and was transported to Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava. When it arrived at Nasser’s home, heart-wrenching cries were heard from her mother and grandmother, who fainted. “Why did you take my daughter?” they cried.

Lucy, mother of Leanne Nasser (center) mourns at the funeral of her daughter, who was killed in the New Year's Eve attack in Istanbul, in Tira, January 3, 2017.
Ariel Schalit/AP

Many women and girls attended the funeral.

Referring to criticism from religious figures concerning Nasser and her friends, Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay said, “We will not lend a hand to this sort of slander. We always support pluralism and oppose coercion of any kind, and we have full faith and trust in our daughters and sisters.”

Dr. Alaa Abd al-Hay, a close friend of Leanne who was with her in Istanbul, told Haaretz, “The attempted slander is like killing Leanne a second time and is an attempt to hurt her friends, and it is coming from anonymous sources in part. We went to Istanbul as independent young women and it is our right to celebrate New Year’s Eve at a famous fancy nightclub if we so choose.”

The Arab-dominated Joint List party also commented Tuesday on the accusations against Nasser and her friends.

Leanne Nasser, one of 39 killed in the Istanbul attack on Dec. 31, 2016.
No credit

“The Joint List has been warning against the manifestations of ISIS-ism on the margins of Arab society, and calls on the public at large to take firmer action to quell phenomena like these, which endanger the entire Arab public and its just causes,” the party said in a statement.

In his eulogy, Tira Deputy Mayor Dr. Walid Nasser, a relative of Leanne’s, said, “Leanne loved life and worked as a dental assistant. She planned to go to school and get ahead in life, but her life was tragically cut off.”

Former MK Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, also spoke at the funeral.

Relatives and friends mourn at the funeral of Leanne Nasser, killed in the New Year's Even attack in Istanbul, in Tira, January 3, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

“Leanne wanted to enjoy life and that is her right. Anyone who tries to give another explanation is killing her a second time. This ISIS-ism must be uprooted because it is killing off all human values," he said.

"We can have disagreements and different outlooks, but we mustn’t lose our humanity, and anyone who possesses an ounce of conscience and compassion must bow their head and shed a tear for this flower that was cut off, because Leanne’s murder is a murder of our future, and a murder of everything we hold dear, and we must be united and denounce the overt and covert racism and ISIS-ism among us,” Barakeh added.

Nasser was celebrating New Year’s Eve with her friends at the Reina club in Istanbul when an armed man in a Santa Claus costume entered and began firing at people indiscriminately, killing 39 people, including Nasser; 69 were wounded. Initially, Nasser was classified as missing, but her body was located and identified several hours later.