President Shimon Peres met with Jewish and Muslim leaders in France, Sunday, to mark a year since the deadly terrorist attack at the Ohr Torah School in Toulouse, in which four members of the city’s Jewish community were murdered.
The Egyptian, African, Moroccan and Senegalese imams, all heads of communities or central mosques, offered their condolences to the victims’ families and called to honor and respect human life.
During the meeting, Peres said he was pleased with the imams’ support for Israel; their moderate approach and tolerance towards communities of other faiths; and their vocal, steadfast opposition to terror in all its forms.
“Whoever was responsible for the murder of French citizens and Jewish children in Toulouse showed the ugly face of terror, and your words show the way of peace,” Peres said. “You are leaders of an Islam which seeks peace, as we do. I am very grateful for your words, and I thank you for coming. I see in you brothers in this path, dialogue between us is important and valuable and that is why this meeting between us is so important. We will work together, for all the peoples of the world, for Israelis and Palestinians, for peace in the world.”
Imam Chalghoumi, head of the Conference of Imams in France, told Peres that Muslims were also victims of Islamic extremism.
“We are here to say to our brothers, the Jews and the French: We are all threatened by terror, hurt by terror and we all call with optimism for peace at the end of this terrible year,” he said. “We teach the believers that human life is holier than the holy sites! Holier than Mecca, the Vatican or Jerusalem.”
The president also met with the heads of France’s Jewish community, where he was updated on what the country’s Jews are doing to cope with, and combat, anti-Semitism.
French Jews had pointed to the Toulouse shootings — in which a gunman killed a rabbi, his two young children, and another child, outside a Jewish school in the southern city — as a symptom of a larger phenomenon of anti-Jewish attacks in the country.
Jewish Agency for Israel head Natan Sharansky met in Israel with the parents of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 29, who was killed along with his two children Arieh, 6, and Gabriel, 3, in the Toulouse shootings. Also killed in the attack was Miriam Monsonego, 8.
Sandler’s parents, Samuel and Miriam Sandler, were in Israel to attend the one-year memorial service, which took place last Thursday in Jerusalem.
“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.
He added that in response to the tragedy, the Jewish Agency had established a fund to help upgrade security in small Jewish communities.
“We cannot bring back your family, but we must learn a serious lesson from the attack,” Sharansky said.