Four hostages shot dead in the Paris kosher store siege are laid to rest in a Jerusalem cemetery
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials speak at a state ceremony
They prayed for the best but feared for the worst when a gunman stormed into a Jewish store in east Paris and unleashed terror just hours before Shabbat on Friday.
Now, four days after Yoav Hattab, 21, Yohan Cohen, 22, Philippe Braham, 45, and François-Michel Saada, 63, were shot dead at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket – the final, tragic chapter to the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in the French capital that shocked the world – their devastated families have laid them to rest at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.
Family members, wrapped in coats to ward off the chill on a sunny Tuesday morning, embraced each other and wept as the bodies of their loved ones arrived.
They were joined by hundreds of other people, many of whom traveled from France to mourn the deadliest attack on that country’s Jewish community since 2012. Some were draped in the Israeli flag; others carried signs bearing the faces of the dead and words, in French, declaring, “I am dead because I am Jewish,” and “I am Charlie, I am Jewish, I am Israeli, I am French, and I’ve had enough.”
The wife of Braham thanked the crowds that gathered to pay tribute to the fallen. “What can I say? Philippe, my dear love. He was a perfect person, always a husband, a father who lived only for his children. Today, he is with my son. I’m crying, but I know that you all cry with me, and I thank all of you for all of this. Philippe, protect yourself, protect me.”
Helicopters flew overhead and soldiers stood guard among the headstones as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the families in a speech.
“When I hugged you in Paris, I said to you that I know your hurt – the hurt of fathers, of parents, boys and girls, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who have lost their dearest,” he said. “And so, the people of Israel, the state of Israel, hug you with love in this dark day when four souls came to Jerusalem … the final resting place of Philippe, Yohan, Yoav and François-Michel. May their souls rest in peace.”
Netanyahu also called for a unified response in the face of last week’s terror attacks: “These are not only the enemies of Israel; they are the enemies of the world, and the time has come that all civilized people should come together and should uproot these enemies from amongst us.”
The bodies of the four men were flown to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, before a convoy of ambulances carried their coffins to waiting crowds of mourners in Jerusalem.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef led the state ceremony with a reading from the Book of Psalms, before the rending of garments, a symbolic act at Jewish funerals where mourners cut their own clothes.
Tearful family members recited the mourner’s kaddish as Israeli and French dignitaries helped them light candles in honor of the dead.
Jonathan Saada lit a candle for his father with Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. Braham’s widow lit another with Nathan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency. Hattab’s father – the chief rabbi of Tunis, Tunisia – lit a candle with Joel Mergui, the Jewish Central Consistory president. Cohen’s sister joined Haïm Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, in lighting one in memory of her brother.
In an emotional speech, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called on European leaders to take steps to wipe out anti-Semitism.
“We can’t get away from the fact that this terror is particularly harsh on the Jewish people,” he said. “It would be dangerous to get away from the fact that there is anti-Semitism, (whether it’s) old anti-Semitism or new anti-Semitism. It doesn’t matter what the terrorists think.
“The leaders of Europe, they have to take an active part, and with a strong hand they have to ensure the security of the Jewish people in Europe. It’s unacceptable that in 2015 that people of Israel are unable to wear the skullcap on the streets of Europe and that cemeteries and synagogues have to be protected and we cannot get away from it anymore.”
The killings of the four hostages by Amedy Coulibaly came two days after the terrorist’s associates massacred 12 people in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
Hattab, one of seven children, was a student in Paris who traveled often to see his family in Tunisia, according to his Facebook page. “You are the magnificent Tunisian that we will treasure forever. Rest in peace,” Fatma Ben Hamouda wrote on the page.
Cohen was a student who was working at the Hyper Cacher market. His parents were from Algeria and settled in Sarcelles in the 1960s, according to French news outlets RTL and AFP. His apparent Facebook page lists a French translation of his favorite quote by Shakespeare: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”
François-Michel Saada was a retired senior executive whose children live in Israel. He was married to Laurence Saada, a psychomotor therapist, for more than 30 years, according to RTL and AFP.
Braham worshipped at a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Montrouge, and his children attended a Jewish school not far from where a police officer was killed last Thursday, the day before his own life was taken, allegedly by the same man, in the supermarket siege.
CNN’s Michael Martinez, Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.