Danny Gonen, an Israeli man who was shot dead Friday near the West Bank settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem, was laid to rest early Sunday morning in an emotional ceremony in his hometown of Lod, near Tel Aviv.
His shooter is still at large, with security forces assessing that the attack was likely a “lone wolf”-style killing, and not pre-planned by a terror group.
About one thousand people were attendance when Gonen was laid to rest, among them a friend of his, Netanel Hadad, who was wounded in the attack.
In her eulogy, his mother, Devora Gonen, praised her son’s integrity and his love of the land.
“Danny, my dear, beloved son,” she said. “I cannot believe that we’re standing here now and talking about you in the past tense. You were a source of immense pride for me, a pillar to your brother and sisters. You were a devoted son to me, and when I needed it, a friend too. And you supported me in everything. You lived your life as a free Jew in your country. You loved the land and you loved the truth. The truth was your banner and you lived by it.”
Gonen, 25, was an electrical engineering student and the eldest of five siblings.
He was shot several times at point blank range, and Hadad was moderately injured, by a Palestinian gunman who flagged down their car as they drove slowly on a gravel path after visiting the Ein Buvin spring near Dolev.
Also attending the funeral was Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home party), who pledged to turn the spring into a tourist site.
“The murderers who didn’t want to see even a few hikers there will now see how thousands of other Jews flock to it,” he vowed.
Speaking before the funeral, Lod Mayor Yair Revivo said that Israelis, who in recent days have been debating government measures to defund cultural institutions deemed “unpatriotic,” should focus on their common enemies.
“Instead of occupying ourselves with superfluous internal culture wars, we should be united in facing the enemies who wish to annihilate us, some of whom share a single culture, one of murder and terrorism,” he said.
The Islamist terror group Hamas on Friday praised the killing as “heroic,” and spokesman Husam Badran said Saturday that “We bless whoever did it.” A group calling itself the “Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha Squad,” named for the two terrorists who killed three Israeli teenagers last summer, claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it was affiliated with the armed wing of Hamas.
Some reports suggested that Gonen and Hadad had cut short their visit to the spring because a Palestinian man there aroused their suspicions, and that security officials were checking whether that man may have telephoned the gunman to tell him about the two Israelis.
The Ein Buvin spring is in an area of the West Bank where prior coordination with the security forces is required for Israelis to visit.
Gonen, who was shot in the upper body, was transferred, unconscious, to Tel Hashomer Hospital by IDF helicopter. He died over an hour after the attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the incident proved that Israelis are under constant threat.
“We mustn’t let the relative calm mislead us. Efforts to hurt us (Israelis) are underway at all times, and we will continue to fight them using all the means available to us,” he said.
President Reuven Rivlin condemned the attack, which he said was “another step in the quiet and serious escalation in acts of terrorism we have witnessed in recent months,” and called on Palestinian and Arab-Israeli leaders to do the same.
On Saturday night, a Palestinian woman was lightly injured after stones were thrown at her car near the site of the shooting, medical and security sources said.
According to Palestinian medics, the woman was taken to hospital but her condition was “not very bad.” A spokesman for the IDF confirmed the army had received a report about the incident and dispatched a medical team, but the woman was evacuated before it arrived.
Palestinians said Saturday’s incident could have been an act of revenge by settlers for Gonen’s death, although the stones could also have been thrown by Palestinians mistaking the woman’s vehicle for an Israeli one.
AFP contributed to this report.