With tears, prayers and eulogies, Israeli and French officials and mourners paid tribute here Tuesday at funerals for the four victims of Friday’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.
Ahead of the ceremonies, black banners expressing solidarity with the French nation were hung throughout the city, some with the phrase “Jerusalem est Charlie” -- a show of solidarity with staffers of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were massacred by gunmen in a related attack last Wednesday.
Embellished with the Star of David, the coffins of Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Phillipe Braham and Francois-Michel Saada arrived at Jerusalem's Ben Gurion Airport at dawn, after Israeli Orthodox volunteers painstakingly prepared the remains for burial in keeping with Jewish tradition.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and other leaders lined up to embrace the victims' families as the Givat Shaul cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem filled with hundreds of mourners who traveled from France and from all over Israel.
One by one, rabbis solemnly identified the relatives in Hebrew and French -- referring to them as frere, or brother, and pere, or father. They snipped small tears in the relatives’ garments, a Jewish mourning tradition, as each one gave a benediction.
Stretchers with the four bodies, wrapped in Jewish prayer shawls, were placed on a raised black dais decked with the Israeli flag and white flowers as a representative of each family spoke words of parting and kindled a memorial flame for the victims.
In a gesture of sorrow, mourners cupped their hands to their face to hear sons, sisters, widows and fathers bid their loved ones farewell in Hebrew and French. “What can I say?,” asked Valerie Braham, Phillipe’s wife, in soft, shallow breaths.
“Dear families, Yoav, Yohan, Phillipe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel,” Rivlin said. “This is not how we wanted to see you come home to Israel. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you life,” he said.
“Now I stand here brokenhearted, shaken and pained. And with me stands and weeps an entire nation,” he said.
Rivlin expressed Israel’s yearning to see the Jews of France settle in the Mideast country. However, the president added, “we do not want terror to subdue you ... we want you to choose Israel because of a love for Israel.”
Terrorists are not only the enemies of the Jewish people, Netanyahu said. “They are the enemies of humanity,” the prime minister said, adding that “the time has come for all civilized nations to unite and purge them from our midst.”
The French government was represented by Segolene Royal, the environment minister, who also spoke at the ceremony before embracing the victims’ relatives.
As the official ceremony concluded with the Israeli national anthem, the massive crowd moved slowly throughout the cemetery for the burial.
Sobelman is a special correspondent.