A broken-hearted and shaken nation stands together in pain to mourn the death of the four Jewish victims of Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris, President Reuven Rivlin said at their funeral in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
“This is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel,” Rivlin said.
He stood on a makeshift stage that was set up in the parking lot of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery, against the backdrop of a large Israeli flag.
To his right lay the bodies of the four men killed in a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris: Yoav Hattab, 21, Yohan Cohen, 20, Philippe Braham, 40 and François-Michel Saada, 64.
The victims were not Israeli, but they were brought to the Jewish state for burial.
Each body lay wrapped in a white and blue prayer shawl next to a burning torch.
“We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life,” Rivlin said as he looked at the thousands of mourners who stood in the gray cement lot under a bright blue sky. Some of them held Israeli flags or hung them off their backs. Others held signs with the faces of the victims that said: “I died because I’m Jewish.”
No amount of earth could cover the blood that was spilled on the floor of the kosher supermarket in Paris and there was nothing that would cure the pain of the loss of these four men, Rivlin said. While the attack was an assault against humanity, it specifically targeted a Jewish location and Jewish victims, the president added.
The sheer hatred of Jews strikes in the form of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Paris, Toulouse and Brussels as well as in Mumbai, he said.
“It would be dangerous to deny that we are talking about anti-Semitism, whether old or new,” said Rivlin. He called on European leaders to take firm measures to return safety and security to European Jews.
“We cannot allow it to be the case, that in the year 2015, 70 years since the end of World War II, Jews are afraid to walk in the streets of Europe with skullcaps and tzitzit,” he said.
To the Jews of France, he said: “Our home is your home, and we yearn to see you settle in Zion.”
But the decision to live in Israel should be an act of choice and not an act of desperation born out of terror and fear, Rivlin said.
The bodies of the four men, accompanied by their relatives, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on an El-Al flight before dawn Tuesday morning.
In homage to the victims’ Tunisian roots, their bodies were then taken to the Kisse Rahamim Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, where the yeshiva’s dean, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the spiritual leader of the Tunisian community in Israel, eulogized them. Only then were the bodies transported to Jerusalem.
“The entire State of Israel embraces you with love,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his eulogy.
“These men,” he said, “were murdered only because they were Jewish. Their lives were cut short in a frenzy of hatred by a despised murderer.”
But radical Islamist terrorist organizations such as the ones responsible for this attack are the enemies of all of humanity, not just the Jews, Netanyahu said. “The time has come for all civilized people to unite and eliminate them from our midst.”
To the terrorists, he said, “you will never, ever defeat us.”
Netanyahu spoke of the strength of the French Jewish community and of the enduring strength of the State of Israel. The source of Israel’s power, the prime minister said, is its unity, faith, resilience and sense of mutual responsibility.
“The resilience of an ancient people that has overcome every obstacle and adversity, and has risen from the dirt.”
Jews who live outside of Israel, including those who are citizens of other countries, know “in their hearts that they have only one country,” Netanyahu said. Israel is their “historic homeland that will accept them with open arms.
Today, more than ever, Israel is our true home.”
Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said his great-grandfather, who had been the chief rabbi of Paris more than a hundred years ago, is buried just a short distance away from where the bodies of the victims are now interred. He founded a synagogue that survived the Holocaust, he said. Now, 70 years later, Herzog said, synagogues in France are faced with the threat of closure for security reasons.
The story of his great-grandfather’s synagogue mirrors that of the French Jewish community, which supports Zionism, has suffered many harsh blows but still clings to life, Herzog said.
Energy Minister Ségolène Royal, who came to Israel especially for the ceremony, reminded those present that the Jews were valued members of the French nation.
“The French Republic shares your loss,” she said. “Your pain is ours. Your pain is that of all of France,” she said, announcing that the victims were being posthumously awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration.
“France without its Jewish community is not France.
“Let me assure you here today of the French government’s absolute determination to fight against all forms of anti-Semitic acts,” she continued.
“That is why the head of state has announced that the fight against racism and anti-Semitism is the national cause of the entire country for the year 2015.”Jeremy Sharon and Reuters contributed to this report.