(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.”
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.