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January 13, 2015

Israelis Gather to Bury Victims of Terror in France, Killed Because They Were Jews

(ADL Israel Staff attended the funerals of the four French Jews earlier today in Jerusalem. Below is a personal account from Phyllis Gerably and Carole Nuriel of ADL’s Israel Office)

Today, making the way to the Har HaMenuchot (Mount of the Resting) cemetery, there were flags and signs put up by the Jerusalem Municipality embracing the French. The Israel National Police and security were in place in preparation of the expected large crowds, and the participation of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Opposition head Isaac Herzog, rabbis, ministers, ambassadors and the French Minister of Environment Ségolène Royal, representing the French government.

An impressive crowd of thousands came out on a cold sunny day to pay final respects to four people they never met, who were tragically killed simply because they were Jewish. The crowd brought together, in a feeling of common destiny, family, friends, members of the French community in Israel and native Israelis. At the entrance to the cemetery a small crowd of French Jews held signs saying, “I am Charlie; I am a Jew; I am an Israeli; I am French; We’ve had Enough.”  ADL Condolence France

In his moving eulogy for the four victims, President Rivlin put it eloquently: “This is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about Israel being the safe haven for the Jewish people, and that the threat against the Jewish people is, in fact, a threat against all of humanity. Opposition Head Yitzhak Herzog spoke of his great-grandfather who was the rabbi of Paris one hundred years ago, and recognized the roots and strength of the Jewish community in France.

The victims’ families each spoke about their loved ones and how they yearned to be in Israel. Their dignity and love for Israel was very moving. Looking out at the crowd of mourners – Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews joined in sorrow by this horrific act – was a quiet reminder to all of us that we are responsible for one another, no matter where we are.

French Minister of EnvironmentRoyal spoke about threats to Jews being a threat to all the French people, and that France without its Jewish community just isn’t France.  Minister Royal also said that combating anti-Semitism and racism is going to be the number one priority for France in 2015. When she announced that the four murdered Jews were going to receive the French Legion of Honour medal, a few in the crowd broke out in applause.

It was very hard to avoid the feeling that this message was too little, too late.

The funeral ended with the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, of which the words “We did not lose our hope” (“Od lo avda Tikvateinu”) had, this time, the additional meaning that while a tragic event had occurred, Israelis have hope for a better future for all.


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July 7, 2014

Israeli Leaders Speak Out Against the Revenge Killing of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir

Israeli leaders expressed shock and horror that Israeli Jews are apparently responsible for the kidnapping and brutal murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a sixteen year old boy from the Beit Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem, whose burned body was found in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2.

Six Israelis were arrested, and are believed to have carried out the murder as an act of revenge for the killing of 3 Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were kidnapped on June 12, and murdered by Palestinians associated with Hamas.

Muhammad 7-8

ADL condemned Muhammad’s murder and the ”alarming surge” of incitement within Israeli society.

Following a condolence call to the families of the 3 Israelis teens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the shocking killing of Muhammad, and declared:

We do not differentiate between the terrorists and we will respond to all of them, wherever they come from, with a firm hand. We will not allow extremists from wherever they come to ignite the region and shed more blood.

The following day, July 7, in speaking to Muhammad’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir,  the Prime Minister  said:

I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizen of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son.  We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers.  We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.  We denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being.

Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke emotionally to Mr. Abu Khdeir, saying:

I am ashamed on behalf of my nation and grieve with you. The only thing left for all of us to do is to ensure that no more children are murdered, and no more tears are shed by mothers.

Peres was joined by incoming president Ruby Rivlin in an op-ed in Yediot Ahronot , appealing to Jewish and Arab Israelis to fight incitement and hate:

…there is no difference between blood and blood. The democratic State of Israel sanctifies the moral right to life and the equal right each person has to be different. The murder of a boy or a girl, Jewish or Arab, is an unacceptable act…It is our duty to stop the journey of incitement. We must understand that we have no other way but to live together. The bloodshed will only stop when we all realize that we have not been sentenced to live together, but destined to live together. Any hesitation or compromise on this issue will lead to deterioration which could be disastrous not just to our life together, but to our actual life.

Joining the official pronouncements were those of a more personal nature.  In The Times of Israel, Sherri Mandell, the mother of thirteen year old, Koby Mandell who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in 2001, harshly condemned the killers of Muhammad, writing in a blog entitled  “How Dare You”:

When I heard that the three yeshiva boys, Naftali, Eyal, and Gil-ad, were murdered I admit I felt both rage and anger. Those are legitimate feelings when young boys in your community are kidnapped and murdered. But the Jewish way is always to choose life, not death. To seek justice, not vengeance. Justice is not burning another innocent human being alive. Justice is allowing the government to find the murderers and punish them. I am concerned about how the world views us in Israel. But I am more concerned about what we say and think about ourselves. What can we believe about our own society now that you have weakened our integrity? We are guilty of committing an abominable depraved act.

Perhaps the most poignant condemnations came from the families of the three Israeli teens.  Naftali Fraenkel’s uncle, Yishai, reached out to the Abu Khdeir family and said:  “there is no difference between those who murdered Muhammad, and those who murdered our children. Those are murderers, and these are murderers. And both must be dealt with to the full extent of the law, and we told him that.”

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