An outpouring of grief overflowed a Jerusalem cemetery Monday afternoon, as over 1,000 mourners gathered to listen to an anguished Gabriel Sasson eulogize his seven young children, killed Saturday in a fire that consumed his family’s Brooklyn home.
“Why seven? Seven beautiful roses,” asked Sasson, as his voice trembled amid hundreds of unrestrained sobs at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery. “They were so pure. So pure.”
A sea of men, women and children, who could not all fit inside the small funeral parlor, filled the street leading up to it for over 100 m. in both directions, listening mournfully as Sasson’s words were broadcast over a loudspeaker.
“God Almighty took seven roses,” he continued. “He took my children and my future grandchildren – maybe 70 or 80 of them. He took their smiles. To you, my God, I gave my all. My soul. My everything.”
The bodies of the Sasson children – Eliane, 16; Rivka, 13; Sara, 5; David, 12; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; and Yaakov, 5, arrived to Jerusalem from New York shortly before the funeral.
“They were such innocent children; seven pure lambs,” their father said. “I lost everything in that fire. Seven pure lambs. Those are my seven children.”
Stating that God took his children “at the height of their beauty” as a “sacrifice for the Jewish people,” Sasson said he nonetheless found the tragedy utterly incomprehensible.
“In the end it is for their benefit and for our benefit, but we cannot understand the master plan,” he said.
Describing the fire as an unspeakable catastrophe, Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, said that each of the seven children was now “a flower in God’s garden.”
Less than 24 hours earlier – as his wife Gayle, 45, and daughter Siporah, 15, remained in critical condition at a New York hospital – Sasson endured another heart-wrenching eulogy attended by hundreds in Brooklyn.
“I don’t know how I could have everything and now I have nothing,” he said before his children’s caskets were flown to Israel. “There’s only one way to survive this: It’s complete, utter and total surrender.”
The Sasson’s had moved to Brooklyn a year-and-a-half ago to be closer to family, after living in Jerusalem’s Har Nof and Ramat Eshkol neighborhoods for 15 years.
The blaze, described by New York City fire officials as one of the city’s deadliest in several years, started just before 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, reportedly by a faulty hot plate in the home’s kitchen.
When Brooklyn firefighters forced their way into the house to extinguish the fire, they found the seven children’s bodies in their bedrooms.
Gayle and Siporah narrowly survived the inferno by jumping out of a second story window moments earlier. Before collapsing, mother and daughter besieged neighbors to call for help.
Since being hospitalized, both are reportedly unaware of their family’s death toll. At the time of the fire Gabriel was away at a religious conference. He did not learn about what had transpired until several hours later, when police officers reached him at a synagogue.
Many mourners in Jerusalem on Monday said they did not know the Sasson family, but felt compelled to attend the funeral.
“It’s unimaginable what this father and family is going through,” said Moshe Bodner. “And to travel 6,000 miles to bury seven children – it’s good to know that you are not alone.Reuters contributed to this report.