By Ryan Jones, www.IsraelToday.co.il
On Monday, a gunmen who has now been identified as an al-Qaeda activist, pulled up in front of the school as students were arriving and gunned down Rabbi Yonathan Sandler, 30, as he was holding his two sons, 3-year-old Gavriel and 8-year-old Arieh, who were both also killed in the attack. The assailant then ran into the entrance of the school where he summarily executed 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the school’s headmaster.
All four victims were flown to Israel, and were buried together in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul Cemetery. The funeral was attended by thousands of mourners and was presided over by government ministers and Israel’s two chief rabbis.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin delivered a powerful eulogy that sought to tear down the myth that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not related.
“The Jewish people face wild and insatiable animals, wild animals made crazy by their hatred, murderers who do not distinguish between a settler and a leftist, a Jew in Israel and a Jew in the Diaspora,” said Rivlin. “They are aware of the unbreakable bond between all Jews. They understand that the divides between us are just an illusion.”
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar broke down in tears as he eulogized little Miriam.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was also in attendance, and assured the gathered Israelis that “your grief, your pain is ours too. All of France is in shock.”
Meanwhile in Toulouse, local police managed to track down the killer, 24-year-old Mohammed Merah, an Algerian citizen of France. Merah proudly identified himself as an al-Qaeda operative, and said his actions had been in response to Israel’s alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians.
Police engaged Merah in a day-long standoff at his apartment that had still not ended by press time. French officials said that Merah had promised to turn himself in without further bloodshed.