The bodies of the four Jews, one teacher and three children, shot down in Toulouse, France, were brought by El Al to Israel at dawn and laid to rest late this morning in a funeral at Har Hamenuchot cemetery in the Givat Shaul neighbor of Jerusalem. Thousands, mostly French-speaking religious Jews, attended. Because of the intense emotions and the strong sun, some 30 in the crowd collapsed.
Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin was there, and spoke, as did the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, and ministers of the government.
With tears streaming down his face, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Amar told the deceased, “G-d will avenge your deaths.” Israel’s enemies’ hatred of Jews — “Esau’s hatred of Jacob” — will never change, he declared.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein alluded to those of “Amalek,” who, as in the Torah, “lack both the strength and the courage to face up to us on the field of battle, and so they target the weak and the unprotected among us… They have been able to kill us but they will never destroy us.”
There was a feeling of enormous Jewish solidarity with the mourners, who in truth are all of us. Rivlin said Jews around the world were “standing with us today,” in shared pain. Edelstein told the families of the victims, “An entire nation embraces you.”
Many non-Jews clearly were with us as well. Showing French solidarity, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was present and pledged:
“Your grief, your pain is ours too. All of France is in shock.
“We will fight anti-Semitism everywhere in France. Every time a Jew is cursed, attacked, or injured on French territory, we will react. Attacks on French Jews are not just attacks on the Jewish community, but on millions of French citizens who cannot tolerate such behavior.”
Let it be so.
Eva Sandler has lost her husband and two sons. A one-year old daughter remains, and she is pregnant. An Israeli citizen, she will not go back to France.
Her words tell us that she is a remarkable soul:
“People ask me what they could to help me, and I tell them, ‘The only help I’m requesting is that people should observe the mitzvot [commandments] and cling to the words of the Torah. If this holy audience keeps the mitzvot, I believe that the souls of my children will be accepted in heaven.”
(Note: It is a traditional Jewish belief that the souls of the departed are elevated through the good that we do here — study, observance, charity, etc.)
After the funeral she walked to the freshly covered graves, and cried, in French, “Come back home!”
She is shown here with her husband.
I don’t have the name of the mother of Miriam Monsonego. But I know a bit about her anguish and that of her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Monsonego, who, it has been reported, both wept inconsolably in the funeral parlor. Miriam was the long-awaited baby of their family, and, according to grown son Avishai Monsonego, had brought much happiness.
According to the Times of Israel, Madame Monsonego arrived at the funeral by ambulance and had to be carried out.
Credit: Gil Yohanan
At the funeral Avishai begged G-d to give his parents the strength “to endure the worst trial that can be endured.”
“Keep going, keep going, keep going,” he implored them.
And so…what Nazi?
Rivlin said it properly at the funeral: “Again we stand before small, silent bodies, before small graves.” Again, and again, and again.
Over the centuries, the hatred has remained but the outward identity of our enemies has shifted. Today, our murderers most often are radical Muslims. Thus, the minute we heard about these despicable murders, most of us thought, “Radical Muslim!” I know I did.
But, no, the news said it was suspected that a neo-Nazi was at work this time. OK. That’s what I reported.
Now today different information reaches us, and we are not surprised.
Mohammed Merah is a French citizen of Algerian descent. He has spent time in Afghanistan, where he had radical associations — in fact, according to the JPost, he was imprisoned there but helped by the Taliban to break out. Merah says that he is a mujahideen (a term often associated with the Taliban, and signifying dedication to jihad) and belongs to al-Qaeda. As I write, he is holed up in an apartment in Toulouse, and has been under siege by the police since the small hours of the morning.
Police seem certain he is the Toulouse murderer. Reported French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, “He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions.”
Are we surprised? Hardly.
Reports coming out are a bit confused. He threw out one gun to the police, but was known to have other weapons — a rifle, a machine gun. He said he would surrender in the afternoon, but subsequently contact with him was cut, and then re-established. Some of his relatives have been arrested. The apartment building he is in has been evacuated and there is talk that special forces may storm his apartment. A report that he has been taken into custody has been denied by the police.
We’ll know how this ends soon enough.
I received a communication this morning from a friend who lives in Paris. She wrote in part that, “Of course all the politicians are out to reassure the Muslims that this will have no impact on the Muslim community!” And, indeed, I, myself, picked up in at least one news release some such words of reassurance from members of the French government.
But — if indeed Merah is guilty of the Toulouse murders and apparently others — this incident cannot be dismissed as an aberration, a case of one kook who was influenced by evil associates in a far-off place. The enemy, which is certainly radical Islam, must be named. There are, without a shadow of a doubt, a good many radical Muslims in France, and neighborhoods where the French police are afraid to operate. It’s time to talk about these things, and the consequences of turning a blind eye to radicalism.
There is a great deal to report — including the fact that the Israeli Ambassador to Egypt has reportedly flown out. Tomorrow I will return to other news and analysis.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.