The New England Patriots football team observed a minute of silence before its game overnight Monday against the Buffalo Bills in memory of Ezra Schwartz, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on Thursday.
Schwartz, a devoted fan of the team, was laid to rest in his hometown on Sunday. The 18-year-old student, on a gap-year program in Israel, was gunned down in the Etzion bloc in the West Bank on Thursday night while on his way to distribute food packages to Israeli soldiers. Yaakov Don, 49, and Palestinian Shadi Arfa were also killed in the terror attack.
At the start of the game, attended by more than 65,000 fans and watched on television by over 15 million, stadium announcer John Dolan said a moment of silence would be held to remember those who had recently lost their lives in “senseless terrorist attacks abroad.”
“Last Thursday, this reality struck close to home when 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, and a huge patriots fan was gunned down nearly 5,500 miles from home while studying abroad,” he said.
“At this time we would like to honor Ezra Schwartz and the hundreds of victims like him with a moment of silence.”
The announcement did not mention Israel, or the identity of his killer.
The initiative was proposed by Steve Leibowitz, the president of American Football in Israel, and former Knesset member Dov Lipman.
On Sunday, Lipman sent a letter to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, through Leibowitz, asking him to memorialize 18-year-old Schwartz.
“This is such a fitting tribute to Ezra and is so meaningful to his family and friends,” Lipman said after the announcement. “Mr. Kraft is a first class human being who does what is right and just. His support for Israel during these tough times has been unwavering and a pillar of strength for all of us. I am usually a Washington Redskins fan but tonight – and possibly from now on – we are all Patriots. Let’s go Pats!”
According to Lipman, students in the Ashreinu yeshiva that Schwartz attended recalled the teenager’s love of the Patriots, with one student apologizing to Schwartz for telling him “to stop screaming with joy as he watched games in his dorm room at 3:00 a.m.”
Story after story told by family members and his Maimonides School baseball coach recalled Schwartz as a loyal Patriots fan who proudly wore the team’s jerseys and caps. Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, is located in Foxborough, the town that borders Sharon.
Ezra followed the team closely while studying in Israel, according to his father Ari Schwartz, who said the family watched the games together over the internet. Recently, Ezra lost the connection on his end, but one of his younger brothers held up his phone to the televised game so they could continue watching, he said at the funeral.
“Football kept us connected and we loved it together,” Ari Schwartz said.
JTA contributed to this report.