Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Israel buries Jews slain in Paris attack

 JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel held a funeral Tuesday for four Jews killed by a gunman in Paris, with thousands turning out to mourn the victims of an attack that shook the Jewish community.

Shock and sorrow was palpable in the crowd as family members and top Israeli officials stood to pay tribute to the four men who were shot dead on Friday when an Islamic extremist stormed a kosher supermarket.

They were among 17 people gunned down in Paris during three days of bloodshed that began with a grisly attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, in violence that convulsed France and sent shock waves through its Jewish community, the third-largest in the world.

The four bodies were flown to Israel early on Tuesday for a joint funeral, after which they were laid to rest in a more private ceremony at the sprawling Givat Shaul cemetery on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. 

"This is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel," said President Reuven Rivlin, addressing the victims by name during the ceremony attended by more than 2,500 people including Israeli political leaders.

"We wanted you alive."

Rivlin said that it was unacceptable that Jews were once again living in fear in Europe.

"We cannot allow that in 2015, 70 years since the end of World War II, Jews are afraid to walk in the streets of Europe" wearing a skullcap and prayer shawl, he said. 

On a sunny but freezing winter morning, French flags were flying across the city alongside signs reading: "Jerusalem is with the French people, we are all Charlie."

The attack on the supermarket, which killed Yoav Hattab, 22, Philippe Braham, 45, Yohan Cohen, 23, and Francois-Michel Saada, 64, has left the Jewish community in both France and Israel badly shaken. 

'Crying with me'

Speaking in Hebrew, Valerie Braham paid tribute to her husband Philippe. 

"I am crying but I know that you're all crying with me," she said.

Gary Buchwald, a friend of the Brahams who flew in from Paris with the family, told AFP the impact of the attack was devastating.

"His wife is in pieces. They had to literally carry her to the plane. I am in shock like all of the French community in France," he said.

"She won't get over this. It is not three million people marching in the street who will change this reality: other attacks will happen," he said. 

"We only have two choices: either we fight back or we run."

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, who was representing Paris at the funeral, sought to reassure the Jewish community, saying anti-Semitism "has no place in France."

"I want to assure you of the unfailing determination of the French government to fight against all forms and acts of anti-Semitism," she told mourners.

The Jewish community in France numbers 500,000 to 600,000 people.

French migration to Israel hit a record high last year of 6,600 people, and many believe the trend will accelerate, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a personal appeal to the Jews of France, saying Israel is their "home."

Among the crowd there was a clear sense that the threats facing Jews in France were not yet over.

"The grief is profound, the families are broken," top French Jewish official Joel Merghi told AFP. 

"The Jewish community has survived (other attacks) many times in history but it will be very difficult to recover this time," he said.

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