Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky traveled to the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Thursday to pay his respects to the victims of a shooting attack at the site on May 24, which left four people dead. Sharansky took part in a memorial service organized by the city’s Jewish community and lit a candle to commemorate the victims of the attack.
“It was important to me to be with the Belgian Jewish community at this time, to strengthen their hands and be strengthened by their resilience,” Sharansky said at the service.
“The Jewish Agency stands with the Jewish community of Belgium and will help ensure that Jewish life continues without interruption, assisting local Jewish institutions in addressing their security needs and connecting young Jews to their Jewish identity and to the State of Israel.”
Sharansky added that he wished to thank the Belgian Jewish community for successfully mobilizing rallies calling for the release of Jewish prisoners from the Soviet Union several decades ago.
One of the victims of the museum attack, an Israeli named Emanuel Riva, was said to have previously worked for Nativ, an Israeli government agency that played a covert role in fostering Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union. Riva’s wife, Miriam was killed in the attack, as well.
During his visit, Sharansky also held meetings with several Jewish community members, student leaders, and representatives of Jewish youth movements operating in Belgium to discuss their concerns in the aftermath of the attack.
While Belgian authorities have said that the attack on the museum was most likely a racially motivated hate crime, they have begun probing possible terror connections, as well.
Federal prosecution spokeswoman Wenke Roggen said the fact that the attack lasted only a minute and a half has led authorities to believe there could be a terrorist motive.
All four victims of the shooting, including a French woman who did volunteer work at the museum and a Belgian museum employee, were hit by bullets to the face and neck.
The 24-year-old Belgian museum worker was said by Jewish leaders to have died Sunday of injuries sustained in the Saturday afternoon shooting though deputy public prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said he was still alive but “clinically dead.”
Three chilling security camera videos show the gunman, wearing a cap and sunglasses, with his features hard to make out, walk through the museum entrance, remove a Kalashnikov-style automatic rifle from a bag and begin shooting.
Van Wymersch refused to confirm or deny reports that a camera was strapped to one of the two bags he was carrying, enabling him to film the attack in the same way as did Mohammed Merah, the Frenchman who shot dead several Jews in Toulouse two years ago.
JTA, AFP and AP contributed to this report.