An 18-year-old U.S. citizen was among three people killed in a shooting attack in the West Bank on Thursday afternoon.
Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old resident of Sharon, Massachusetts, was a recent graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA. He was in Israel for his gap year, and was studying at the Yeshiva Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh. The yeshiva combines studies with community service.
According to Channel 2, Schwartz and other students from the yeshiva were in a minivan on their way to deliver snacks to Israel Defense Forces soldiers when a Palestinian motorist armed with an Uzi submachine gun opened fire toward cars near the settlement of Alon Shvut.
A public memorial will be held for Schwartz before his coffin is flown to the U.S. for the funeral. The service will take place on Saturday, at 8 P.M. at Ben Gurion International Airport, Terminal 1, Entrance 2.
Two other people, Shadi Arafa, 24, a Palestinian from Hebron, and Yaacov Don, 51, an Israeli from Alon Shvut, were killed in the attack. Five others were wounded. Just hours prior, two Israelis were stabbed to death and another was wounded in a terror attack in Tel Aviv.
Stunned friends gathered in Sharon to grieve his loss. Tovya Goodwin, 17, also from Sharon, has known Schwartz for more than ten years. The two had attended Camp Yavneh, a Jewish camp in New Hampshire, throughout their childhood.
“He was the kind of guy who always made you laugh and didn’t take to things too seriously, but knew how to be responsible when he needed to be,” she told Haaretz. Last summer, she said, before Schwartz left for Israel, he moved from being a camper to working as a counselor, and won an award for being one of the most “most spirited and inspiring” staff members.
Goodwin said that among her camp friends and Schwartz's former classmates at the Maimonides School in Brookline, gap year studies in Israel were so common that they were "not especially worried" about the security situation. "He was there with a group of his friends and I guess it was just somehow assumed the attacks would never hit this close to home."
Goodwin said that both at the Maimonides School, from which Schwartz graduated, and at the coeducational Jewish high school Gann Academy, which many of his friends attended, midday assemblies were held to break the news to students, after which they were permitted to leave school and go home to grieve.
In a statement, President Reuven Rivlin said: “Our hearts are pained and broken. The pain is the same pain. The mourning is the same mourning in Tel Aviv, in Paris, in the Etzion Bloc, and in the Sinai. The pornography of death is striking across the world.”
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sympathy to the families of the victims. "Behind these terrorist attacks stands radical Islam, which seeks to destroy us, the same radical Islam that struck in Paris and threatens all of Europe," he wrote.
Schwartz leaves behind parents Ari and Ruth Schwartz, and four siblings.