Several hundred people were on hand at the Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv to say goodbye to Ezra Schwartz, 18, before his body was loaded on to a plane to be flown back to his native Sharon, Massachusetts on Saturday night. Schwartz was one of three people killed Thursday when a Palestinian man opened fire at vehicles outside the settlement of Alon Shvut, just south of Jerusalem.
Among the mourners, who prayed and sang the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikva,” at the airport were dozens of his fellow students at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh, where Schwartz was spending his post-high school gap year.
He and a group of students were delivering food parcels to Israeli soldiers in the area when the terrorist opened fire. The attacker also killed Ya’akov Don, 51, a teacher from nearby Alon Svhut and Shadi Arfah, a 24-year-old Palestinian from Hebron, before he ran out of ammunition and was arrested.
During the ceremony, a letter was read from Schwartz’s father, Ari.
“I cannot help but be happy for Ezra,” he wrote. “We know that he is okay right now and that gives us peace.”
The letter continued, “We have no regrets. I am happy for him because of all the places he went and all the people he was able to touch. Some people live long lives but have unfortunate circumstances that make life hard. Ezra had a wonderful life and he died a happy person, and that is more important than anything else.”
Schwartz, the second of five children, was a recent graduate of the Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, and had been a counselor at Camp Yavneh, a Jewish summer camp in Northwood, New Hampshire.
Five other members of Schwartz’s yeshiva were lightly injured in the attack. Besides delivering supplies to soldiers, the group had also visited a nearby memorial to three Israeli teenagers killed by Palestinian terrorists in the area last summer.
The United Synagogue Youth program, which Ezra joined in 2013, released a statement saying he would be “remembered as being a warm and funny member of the… community. Staff on his trip recalled today that he used his deep experience in Judaism to teach other teens how to participate in Jewish ritual.”
Schwartz’s body was being flown to his hometown, where he was to be laid to rest on Sunday.
JTA contributed to this report.