Video: Israel Airports Authority
Picture Ezra Schwartz flying through the air on skis smiling, his father, Ari, said in a letter that was read at a special ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport on Saturday before the body of the American teen was flown to Boston for burial.
Ezra, 18, was one of three victims of Thursday’s terror attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.
“I want them to think of Ezra with a great big smile on his face, flying through the air on jumps so big most of us could not imagine people flying so high,” Ari wrote.
“What a great kid, what a great life,” his father added.
Ezra had been in Israel on a gap year after graduating from Maimonides Day School in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was studying at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh and had planned to attend Rutgers College next fall.
Mourning Ezra Schwartz
His friends from Ashreinu and those from Maimonides, who like him were spending the year in Israel, were among the hundreds of people who attended the airport ceremony.
They stood in a large circle, some with Israeli flags, and sang songs, including Israel’s national anthem.
Ezra’s uncle, Yoav, who lives in Ra’anana, spoke at the ceremony as he recalled a teenager who loved sports and whose easy manner and sense of humor drew everyone to him.
“How it is possible that a soul like that could be taken from us so early,” Yoav asked.
Later on in the ceremony, he read from a letter that his brother, Ezra’s father, Ari, wrote.
“Ezra had a great life. We are proud of who he was and and what he accomplished. He had 18 great years, and that is how we will remember him,” wrote his father.
“We will never forget his sense of humor his caring and his love for sports,” wrote Ari.
Ezra was close with his four younger siblings. He would spend hours playing Wiffle ball with his brothers outside the family home in Sharon, Massachusetts, sometimes until late at night. His sister, Mollie, was his best friend and confident, Ari wrote.
The family has spent time since his death looking through pictures and videos of Ezra’s life, including those his friends had sent them, Ari explained.
In them they could see him playing baseball, reciting passages from the Harry Potter books or leading small children in song and dance at Camp Yavneh, where he worked as a councilor.
“Those kids love him,” wrote Ari. “We are proud to be the parents of Ezra Schwartz.”
In spite of the overwhelming difficulty of the loss, “I cannot help but be happy for Ezra. We know that he is OK right now and that gives us peace,” wrote Ari.
“We know how happy he was in Israel and how much he wanted to be there for his year before college."
“We have no regrets. I am happy for him because of all the places he went and all the people he was able to touch. Some people live long lives but have unfortunate circumstances that make life hard. Ezra had a wonderful life and he died a happy person and that is more important than anything else,” wrote his father.
Among those who spoke at the ceremony were Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and a Bill Grant, deputy chief of mission for the US embassy.
Grant read a letter from US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who spoke of the sorrow and anger that US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry felt over Ezra’s death.
He was taken “early from his family and friends by an act of terror. To his great credit Ezra chose to spend the year here deepening his own relationship with this place. Whether he knew it or not he was also strengthening the bonds between the US and Israel,” Shapiro wrote.
Ezra was killed while in a van with five of his friends delivering food to soldiers stationed in the Gush Etzion region. A Palestinian terrorist sprayed their van with bullets while the van was stuck in traffic. The five friends were evacuated from the scene, treated at Sha'are Tzedek Medical Center and then released.
They, along with Ezra's uncle, Yoav, flew with Ezra's body to Boston. The teen will be buried in his hometown of Sharon on Sunday. He was one of two victims from the Gush Etzion terror attack with ties to the Boston community. Yaakov Don, 49, an educator and father of four, had lived with his family in the Boston area from 1979-1983 and attended Maimonides Day School.
Last year, Mosheh Twersky, 59, who was also a graduate of Maimonides, was one of five victims of a terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.