Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Response
Thursday, 6 March 2008
MFA Spokesman: Tonight's murder of yeshiva students during a religious event expresses at its most deplorable the fundamentalist-extremist foundations, in the name of which Palestinian terrorism operates. Israel will never allow terrorism to achieve its goals. Such abominable terrorist attacks must strengthen the free world's understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat. A clear, decisive and uncompromising stand is necessary against such terrorism.
Israel is at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism and will continue to defend its citizens, who are exposed to this threat on a daily basis. Israel expects the nations of the world to support it in its war against those who murder students, women and children, by any means and with respect for neither place nor target.
Terror in yeshiva library
A Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the Mercaz Harav yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) on Thursday evening and opened fire on a crowded library and study hall, killing eight people and wounding 11 others. The yeshiva, located in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood near the entrance to Jerusalem, is home to several hundred students, most aged 18-30.
On Thursday evening, the yeshiva students - mostly teenagers - had returned from prayers at the Western Wall. They were about to begin a party celebrating the beginning of the month of Adar - a month of joy marked by the Purim holiday. Many of the students had gathered in the yeshiva library before the party when the terrorist opened fire.
"God picks the most beautiful flowers for his garden," said the mother of 16-year-old Avraham David Moses, killed in the attack.
Avraham David Moses, 16, was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen; Segev Peniel Avihai, 15, was a French citizen; and Doron Meherete, 26, held dual Ethiopian-Israeli citizenship.
The terrorist was identified as Alaa Abu Dhein of the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood in East Jerusalem. His family set up a mourning tent and hung Hamas and Hizbullah flags outside their home - ordered removed by the Israel police.
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Celebrations in Gaza
Gaza's streets filled with joyous crowds of thousands on Thursday evening following the terror attack at a Jerusalem rabbinical seminary in which eight people were killed. In mosques in Gaza City and northern Gaza, many residents went to perform the prayers of thanksgiving. Armed men fired in the air in celebration and others passed out sweets to passersby.
Hamas issued a statement saying the group "blesses the (Jerusalem) operation.
Hamas radio broadcast Friday a statement, in which the organization claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a "jolting response to the violence in Gaza in which more than 120 Palestinians were killed," and calling on all Hamas supporters to "celebrate this victory against the brutal enemy."
Reuters reported that "the Hamas movement announces its full responsibility for the Jerusalem operation."
Palestinian defense sources said that the gunman was acting on instructions from Hamas leaders in Damascus, in coordination with Hizbullah. ** *
Segev Pniel Avichail, the oldest of four children, was the son of Rabbi Elyashiv Avihail, rabbi of Telem and Ad-Olam, and the grandson of two well-known rabbis: Rabbi Eliahu Avichail, instrumental in locating and bringing to Israel "lost Jewish tribes" such as the Bnei Menashe from India; and Rabbi Yehoshua Zuckerman, the founder of the El Ami movement and teacher at Har Hamor Yeshiva. Segev Avihail also holds French citizenship.
A few years ago, Segev was wounded in a shooting attack on the Telem road while driving with his father.
"Segev was a gift that was given to me and to the entire family for 15 years. He had a pure heart, was a good son and exceptionally diligent in his studies. He loved his brothers and was close to his father," Avihail's uncle Yair Tzukerman said, describing him as a "serious student, a pure soul with a good heart."
"Segev was a person who helped everybody constantly. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved to study Gemara and was very good at it. When he was informed that he had gotten into the yeshiva he was the happiest person, he proudly ran and told everyone he was accepted," said Ya'akov Tzukerman (no relation), Segev's friend.
Segev Peniel Avihail was buried in the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem. He is survived by his parents, Elyashiv and Moriah, and three siblings - twins Yifeh and Shahak, and younger sister Liat.
Neria Cohen grew up in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, one of 12 children born to Ayala and Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen. His father is a rabbi at the Esh HaTorah hesder yeshiva in the Jewish Quarter, and was for many years among the heads of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter. Many in Neria's extended family are active in programs that combine religious studies with community outreach and education in poor towns. Neria was active in the Bnei Akiva youth movement.
"Neria's most striking quality was boundless joy. Everyone always wanted to be with him," said Eliezer Avni, a ninth-grade counselor at the Mercaz Harav affiliate where Neria studied. "He was a boy who lived all the ideals in the world, who enlisted for every mission, whether it was activity on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, or on behalf of communities, or the needy."
"He is God's light, a perfect soul who connects to God all the time. He was a true son of the Torah and spent every moment with his study companion. When he understood the essence of the Torah, he was filled with happiness and joy," Rabbi Ze'ev Schor, one of Neria's teachers, said over his grave.
Neria Cohen was also buried in the priests' section in the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem. He is survived by his parents, Yitzhak and Ayala, and 11 siblings.
"Usually you think of someone so young who is so deeply involved in Torah study as being square, but Yonatan wasn't at all like that," said Rabbi Uri Bayar, an educator in Shilo and a friend of the Eldar family. "He was full of joie de vivre and had many interests," he added.
Yonatan, the sixth of eight children, had recently started serving as a counselor in the local branch of the Bnei Akiva youth movement. His mother Avital related that her son, a quiet and modest boy, had blossomed in his last year and a half at the yeshiva.
Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar was buried in Shilo with his copy of the Nedarim Tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, soaked in his blood. He is survived by his parents, Dror and Avital, six brothers and one sister.
Yehonadav attended a high school yeshiva near Mercaz Harav and later continued to study at the yeshiva itself. He was involved with children in the community and had worked as a counselor in the Ariel youth movement. Even after he left the movement he kept up his relationships with the kids. He was a "talented young man with broad horizons, intelligent, and an admired guide in the Ariel youth movement," Haya Meir, a neighbor, said.
Yehonadav was buried in Kokhav Hashahar. He is survived by his parents, Zemah and Elisheva, and 12 siblings.
"His most outstanding quality was his innocence," said Zvi Yehuda Herling, an instructor at the Kotel Yeshiva at the funeral. "He had a constant desire to search for his own truth, whether it was to rise before everyone and go to synagogue to study before morning prayer or practice for his army service."
Thank you for everything you've done and given for 18 years," Yohai's father Tuvia said. His cousin, Jonathan Kelerman, said: "He was a good soul with an extraordinary ability to persist studying the Torah. Even up to his death he was studying Torah in the library."
Yohai Lifshitz was laid to rest in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul cemetery. He is survived by his parents, Tuvia and Tzofia, four brothers and a sister.
Three years ago Doron joined the army, under a special arrangement for advanced yeshiva students, served nine months in the armored corps, and fought as a reservist in the Second Lebanon War. He was preparing to become a rabbi, and had already taken some of his ordination exams.
Doron Meherete was buried in Ashdod. He is survived by his parents, and four siblings, aged 20 to 42.
Avraham David was the oldest of two boys from Naftali's first marriage, with Rivka, and had two half-sisters from his father's second marriage. From his mother, Rivka, who is married to David Moriah, he has two half-brothers and six stepbrothers.
Avraham, though only in high school, was already skilled at reading the weekly Torah portion in synagogue. "He was a really terrific kid," his stepmother Leah Moses said. "He was very pious and involved in learning, and his identity as an Israeli was very important to him. He was very good with his younger brothers and sisters." Leah continued. "He took very seriously the development of good behavior. He would study about being kind and he would walk into the house and help with the dishes. If we would gossip at the table, he would politely tell us to stop."
At his funeral, Avraham David's father recounted that his son had visited him at home last Saturday. "I blessed you, put my hand on your head and suddenly grasped how much you had grown in spirit. You were not a fighter but a loving person - you loved the Torah and studying the Torah. You ended your life studying the Torah." Avraham David's stepfather, David Moriah, said the boy was "like an angel. He had amazing integrity." His mother, Rivka, said thanks for "the 16 years we had the privilege of raising him, 16 years of purity of heart and honesty."
Avraham David Moses was buried in the Kfar Etzion cemetery. He is survived by his parents, step-parents, brother Elisha-Dan, 11, half-sisters Ora-Dina, 6, and Ayelet, 4, and half-brothers Noam, 4, and Hai, 2.
Ro'i's friends described him as very spiritual. "He felt very close to God, and about every problem he would say, 'That, too, is from God' and tried to understand what God wanted from him," Eyal, his roommate and friend from home, related. "He prayed long and loud and everyone in the study hall could hear his 'Amen,'" another friend from Elkana and fellow student at Mercaz Harav, Menashe Zimmerman, said. He often came late to meals, after his prayers.
Ro'i Roth was buried was the son of Orly and Yaakov Roth. In addition to his parents, he is survived by three brothers - Aryeh, Dvir and Daniel, 10 - and a sister, Maayan, 16.