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Israel mourns at funeral for victims of French shooting

The mother of seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego (bottom R) mourns during the joint funeral service in Jerusalem for her daughter and the other three victims of Monday's shooting in Toulouse March 21, 2012.

BAZ RATNER/REUTERS/BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

The four victims of Monday's shooting attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, were laid to rest in Jerusalem today.

About 1,000 people, mostly black-hatted Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) accompanied the bodies of the three children and one adult as they wound their way through the massive Givat Shaul cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem, just off the highway to Tel Aviv.

The interment followed a two-hour ceremony at which speaker after speaker tried to put words to the grief Israelis and Jews in general are feeling at the shocking murders of children.

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Shlomo Amar, Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi, broke down sobbing as he spoke beside the three small bodies shrouded in white and the adult body wrapped in black and gold.

"Ay, ay, ay, they're only children," wailed one man in the crowd at the site of the little forms.

Rabbi Amar praised the work being done at the Toulouse school by Jonathon Sandler, the teacher who was gunned down along with two of his young children. Mr. Sandler, born in France, had trained in Israel, and returned to Toulouse on a mission of sorts to teach the Torah to the city's mostly assimilated Jewish population of some 20,000.

A family member described Toulouse as having had "the most assimilated" Jewish community in France before the work of Rabbi Sandler and others before him to bring out the community and teach it to be more religious.

Chief Rabbi Amar noted that some people say it's best if Jews not stand out. "But Jews tried intermingling [in places such as Toulouse]and it makes no difference."

"Every generation someone will descend on us ... to try to exterminate all the Jews," he said.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin described the litany of attacks that have befallen Jews in recent years, including in the Israeli town of Sderot, a frequent target of rockets fired by militant groups in nearby Gaza; Mumbai, site of a 2009 terror attack at the Chabad House, another mission to increase Jewish religiosity; and Itamar, a West Bank settlement in which a family, including small children were murdered by a pair of Palestinian teens from an adjacent town.

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"Evil knows no bounds," Mr. Rivlin said.

Speaker after speaker vowed that the blood of the victims will be avenged.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who flew to Israel overnight to attend the funeral, assured Israelis that France was doing "everything in its power to protect Jewish and all schools from such cowardly acts."

Mr. Juppe described Monday's killings as a "national tragedy" for France, calling the four fatal victims "martyrs" who were "assassinated."

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About the Author
Global Affairs reporter

As Global Affairs Writer, Patrick Martin’s primary focus is on the turbulent Middle East, to which he travels regularly. He has twice been posted to the region – from 1991-95 and from 2008-12. More

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