Thousands Attend Funeral of Slain Druze Officer

Ultra-Orthodox Jews urged to attend funeral of Zidan Nahad Seif, who succumbed to wounds sustained while trying to stop deadly Jerusalem synagogue attack.

Reuters

Thousands attended on Wednesday the funeral of sergeant-major Zidan Nahad Seif, the policeman who was wounded while attempting to stop the attack at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue a day before.

Seif, a member of Druze minority, was hospitalized in critical condition and succumbed to his wounds overnight Wednesday.

Many non-druze were among those who came to pay their respects to Seif. Postings on social media had urged members of the ultra-Orthodox to attend the funeral.

Muafak Tarif, Sheikh of Israel's Druze community, called on President Reuven Rivlin, who also attended the funeral, to help calm the tensions between Jews and Arabs. The Druze community, he said, will adhere to the path of peace, and will continue to serve Israel loyaly.

Rivlin, who has since taking office been vocal about the need for working towards Jewish-Arab coexistence within Israeli society, addressed Seif's family. "I stand before you in shock and in pain. Yesterday morning terror struck in Jerusalem once more. Terror that does not differentiate between people, between creeds Your beloved Zidan, one of this State's best sons, didn't hesitate and didn't waver," Rivlin said. "He was among the first to reach the scene of the massacre, among the first to protect the people of Jerusalem. Your dear Zidane stood fearlessly before the terrorists and used his own body to blocked their attack, to block their fire."

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood - that had just buried four of its members killed in the attack – had launched efforts to unite in the mourning of Seif. At least one bus departed from the Jerusalem International Convention Center at 12 P.M. that was carrying mourners to his funeral.

"We are asking anyone from the ultra-Orthodox community who is able to attend the funeral of the police officer who protected our praying brothers with his body," the post on social media read. "Come show him your gratitude," it added, describing his actions – being killed while protecting Jewish worshipers – as kiddush hashem.

Ariella Sternbuch, one of the organizers of the drive to honor Seif, told Walla! news that she was touched by a photograph of him with his baby daughter. "I was moved by the thought that he chose to sacrifice his life for the Jewish people," she said. "Haredim [ultra-Orthodox Jews], who were the main victims of this attack, should come pay him their last respects."

Sternbuch said that she began receiving donations to pay for buses to bring people to Seif's funeral. Lt. Col. (res.) Erez Eshel told Walla! that he offered to pay for as many buses as they could organize to bring mourners to the funeral. "The most important thing at this time is unity between the citizens of Israel," he said.

Mada Hasbani, head of the Yanuh-Jat local council in the Galilee, who had visited Seif in hospital on Tuesday afternoon, said that the policeman came from a veteran village family. "It's a family of values," he said. "The boy acted as was expected of him and according to the standards and values that his parents instilled in him."

Seif, 30, joined the traffic police four-and-a-half years ago and recently reached the rank of sergeant-major. He married his wife, Rinal, in summer 2013 and their first daughter, also named Rinal, was born four months ago.