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Prayers return to attacked synagogue
02:07 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Prayers resume at the synagogue where attackers killed five people this week

"We don't feel revenge is something we need to do," says one neighborhood resident

A grocery store owner says the son of one of the victims came in hours after the attack

"You could see that he didn't grasp what happened to him," he says

Jerusalem CNN  — 

At the Jerusalem synagogue where two Palestinians carried out a bloody attack with butcher knives and a gun this week, worshipers are determined to keep praying.

Four members of their congregation and a police officer were killed and several others wounded in the horrifying assault during morning prayers Tuesday, which left blood stains on sacred texts and prayer shawls.

“It’s a huge shock that in a synagogue … slaughterers come in with slaughter tools like butchers,” said David Hershcovitz, a resident of Har Nof, the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood where the synagogue is situated.

Despite the trauma, morning prayers resumed at the synagogue Wednesday.

“We don’t feel revenge is something we need to do. We believe God runs the world, and God will do what he needs to do to take care of whoever did something,” Hershcovitz said.

But the attack has put people even more on edge in a city where tensions between Jews and Palestinians had already been running high.

Who were the victims?

Tensions over holy site

Authorities say they have tightened security amid fears of further attacks or acts of revenge. On Wednesday, there were fewer cars and people than usual on the streets of Jerusalem, a typically bustling city.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the synagogue attack by ordering the demolition of the attackers’ homes, as well as the acceleration of the destruction of homes of Palestinians who carried out earlier attacks.

Early Wednesday, Israeli security forces demolished the home of the family of a Palestinian man who rammed his car into a crowd of people at a light rail station in Jerusalem last month.

Religion has always been a key element of the conflict in the region, and the recent unrest has flared over the Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

It’s sacred to both.

But until recently, violent attacks on places of worship had been relatively rare.

In the past few weeks, two mosques have been set ablaze in arson attacks in the West Bank, leaving copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in ashes.

‘The tragedy’

Residents of Har Nof, in western Jerusalem, are still shaken by Tuesday’s attack.

The four worshipers who were killed – Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 58; Aryeh Kupinsky, 43; Moshe Twersky, 59; and Kalman Levine, 55 – were all rabbis who lived on the same street in the neighborhood, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Goldberg was a dual British-Israeli citizen, and the other three were U.S.-Israeli citizens.

Local media reports said one of the attackers worked at a store in the area. Freshly plastered signs on one wall read, “Jews Employ Jews.”

Shimon Shor runs a grocery store close to the synagogue.

He said the attackers didn’t work at his store, but three of the victims shopped there.

On the day of the attack, the young son of one of the dead men walked in just hours after the killings.

“You couldn’t see in him any sign,” Shor said. “He didn’t grasp it. You could see that he didn’t grasp what happened to him – the tragedy.”

Shor said he let the boy pick his favorite candy and urged him to go home, the only solace he could offer.

Zidan Saif, a police officer, died from wounds he suffered while trying to stop the synagogue attackers, authorities say.

Saif was Druze. The Druze are an Arabic-speaking religious community, a monotheistic offshoot of Islam that also combines elements of other religions. Of its members in Israel, many live in Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

On Wednesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke at Saif’s funeral which was attended by thousands, including people from the ultra-Orthodox community.

“Your dear Zidan stood fearlessly before the terrorists,” Rivlin said, “and used his own body to block their attack, to block their fire.”

CNN’s Atika Shubert reported from Jerusalem, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Ben Wedeman and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.