One year after the tragic terror shooting attack in Toulouse, France, the Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky met with the parents of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, slain along with his two children.
In the rampage on March 19, at the Ohr Torah School (formerly Otzar Hatorah), 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian Islamist terrorist, shot and killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler (29), a teacher at the school; his two sons, Arieh (6) and Gabriel (3.5); and Miriam Hanna (8), daughter of the principal of the school, Rabbi Yaakov Monsonego.
Two days later, French police shot Merah dead after a tense standoff at a building where he was holed up.
Since the attack, the Jewish Agency has provided ongoing assistance to the Sandler and Monsonego families and has helped the students and teachers of Ohr Torah recover from the attack.
Rabbi Sandler’s parents, Samuel and Miriam Sandler are visiting Israel to attend the one year memorial service which took place last Thursday in Beit Vegan, Jerusalem. Sandler’s aunt, Leah Marcu also took part in the meeting.
“The dignity with which your family has faced this awful tragedy has given great strength to Jews around the world and deserves great appreciation from all of us,” Sharansky said at the meeting, which was held on Sunday.
“We cannot bring back your family, but we must learn a serious lesson from the attack,” Sharansky said.
In response to the tragedy, the Agency has established a fund to help upgrade security in small Jewish communities, which has already provided assistance to over 20 Jewish communities around the world.
Samuel Sandler noted that the family were upset by the nature of the coverage of the tragedy in the French media, which focused on the difficulties the killer faced in his youth and largely ignored the victims.
“At the time of the event till today, I am shocked that the French press has dealt largely with the killer and ‘how hard he had it.’ No attention was given to the families of the victims and the victim’s names were frequently not mentioned,” Sandler said, adding that, despite the media focus, the family had felt the support of many French individuals and organizations, who had contacted them to offer support.
In response, Sharansky emphasized that “While in France, the focus was on the killer, in Israel you are a part of our family and we feel a strong bond. Thank you for standing strong.”
Sharansky added that in the last year there has been a serious increase in violent incidents against Jews in France, a trend which has been recognized by the French government.
Miriam Sandler told Sharansky about the family’s efforts to perpetuate the memory of their son and grandchildren, which include the publication of a book of their son’s writings on the weekly Torah Portion, the establishment of Beit Sandler, a synagogue in Kiryat Hayovel, Jerusalem and the planned construction of a kindergarten, also in Kiryat Hayovel.
“After visiting the graves of my son and grandchildren on Friday, it is very hard for me to leave Jerusalem,” Miriam said.