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Peres pays condolences to Toulouse victims’ families

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A wide-eyed baby girl with a rosebud mouth has captivated both the president and the prime minister of Israel. On Thursday of last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reached out to her and clasped her tiny hands in his. On Friday, President Shimon Peres embraced her, cradled her in his arms and dandled her on his knee. Liora, whose name means God’s gift of light, is too young to understand why everyone is making a fuss of her nor does she realize that she is indeed God’s gift of light to her newly bereaved mother, Ava Sandler.
Liora is the daughter of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and and sister to his sons Aryeh 6, and Gavriel 3, who together with eight year old Miriam Monsonego were murdered in Toulouse by terrorist gunman on a motorcycle, Mohamed Merah, who had allied himself with al-Qaida.
The victims were buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday and the families remained in the capital to observe the initial week-long mourning period.
Netanyahu paid a condolence call on the families on Thursday and Peres did so on Friday.
In empathizing with Ava Sandler, Peres told her that this upheaval in her life was of the cruelest kind. The loss of her husband and two sons in one fell swoop was a tragedy of enormous magnitude said Peres, adding that he could only imagine how painful and agonizing it was for her with every passing moment. "But above all, you are the mother of a daughter and you are left with the important and difficult obligation of being strong for her sake and her future." Peres said that he had gained the impression that Ava Sandler was resilient, and for that reason he was sure that she would have the strength that she needed in order to raise Liora. "I came here today to bring you the love of the nation and to express the wish that you should know no more sorrow." Addressing himself to Shlomo Sandler, the father and grandfather of the Sandler family victims, Peres admitted that he was at a loss to understand how anyone could be so callous as to murder a teacher and three little children at point blank range. The Jewish people will remember Yonatan Sandler as an educator who was killed with his children in the course of the important mission that he had taken upon himself, said Peres. Sandler had dedicated himself to children with learning difficulties.
Yaacov Monsonego, the principal of the Ozar HaTorah School in Toulouse and the father of Miriam who had been killed so brutally, had witnessed the atrocity and was still haunted by the memory.
He had been inside the synagogue within the school building when he suddenly heard shouts he told Peres. He had not heard any shots fired, but he did hear shouts of "They’re shooting at us!" Within seconds, the gunman had fled and had left behind him the shocking reason for his having been there at all. The miraculous thing, said Monsonego, was the presence of a lectern which prevented the motorcyclist from advancing further into the premises. His intention had been to get into the synagogue where there were many children, said Monsonego. The history of the Jewish people is rife with stories of tragedy following joy and joy following tragedy. This was also the case in the Monsonego family, of which one of the sons had recently married. Miriam’s parents and four siblings showed Peres photographs of a happy albeit somewhat serious Miriam that had been taken at the wedding. The child’s father told Peres that Miriam had been an exceptionally good student and wise beyond her years. She was born in Toulouse and of the five Monsonego siblings was the only one living at home. The others were far away in Israel, and it was Miriam who gave her parents the strength to continue as educational emissaries in France, said her father.
Before leaving, Peres said to Miriam’s mother Yaffa Monsonego: "Your daughter was wonderful, beautiful and irreplaceable – and your loss must be unbearable. I came to share in your sorrow and to tell you that everyone is certain that you will find the strength of faith and spirit to survive this tribulation. All that I can wish you and your family is that you will be comforted with all those who mourn for Jerusalem and that you will continue with your vital task of bringing Torah education to Jews in the Diaspora."

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