Thousands of mourners gathered in the central Israeli city of Modiin on Sunday, as the three members of the Salomon family who were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a deadly stabbing attack were laid to rest.
Yosef Salomon, 70, and his two children Chaya Salomon, 46, and Elad Salomon, 36, were killed by a 19-year-old Palestinian, who infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Halamish on Friday night and attacked them in their home as they were celebrating the birth of a new grandchild with the family.
A five-minute walk from the entrance to the cemetery, surrounded by tall trees of the Ben Shemen forest, friends and relatives once again gathered together, but this time without the jokes and singing that accompanied the celebration on Friday and so much of the time in the Solomon family home.
Each of the six eulogies given before the burials mentioned the seemingly endless warmth and love that Yosef both had for, and instilled in, his family and community.
To the audible sobs of the some 3,000 strong crowd, Rabbi Yonatan Glass, the rabbi of Halamish, described Yosef and the Salomon family’s effect on the close-knit settlement nestled in the Samarian hills, north of Ramallah.
“Only someone with no remnant of humanity could raise their hand against Yossi and his family,” he said. “Yossi made everyone he came across happy. The Salomon family household was based on making other people happy.”
Yosef’s daughter Orit, one of three children who survive their father and siblings, said she now felt an emptiness having lost the “rock” of the family.
“Dad, you were always a man who gave everything and made us all happy and made us feel like everything was OK but now, nothing is OK,” she said. “Now you can rest, we will look after Mom.”
Yosef’s wife, Tova, 68, was released from the hospital hours earlier and joined the mourners at the funeral. She had been seriously wounded in the attack and taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where she underwent surgery on Saturday morning.
Orit also vowed to look after her brother Elad’s children, saying that “your blood runs through me and I will look after them like my own.”
Michal Solomon, the wife of Elad, spoke of the deep partnership they shared and of her fears for the future without him. “Now you are not here for me and it scares me,” she said in a near whisper.
“Thirteen years ago, I met a quiet, calm and stable man. I felt certain in my decision to spend our lives together. You were a perfect husband, we couldn’t have asked for any more. You were excited by our kids. You cared about them. You played with them like a kid yourself,” she said.
Michal thanked all those who supported her and the family. She was present during the attack and saved their children by taking them upstairs and holding the door closed.
“I want to say thank you to everyone here,” she said. “In the last two days I have received so much strength from people I don’t know. You don’t know how much you have helped me.”
While the immediate family members offered their memories of their slain loved ones, others took the opportunity to consider the wider ramifications of the murders, which came amid rising tensions with the Palestinians.
In a brief eulogy, Rafi Mendel, the husband of one of the surviving sisters, called the government to respond to the attack by annexing the West Bank.
“I pray to God to give wisdom and understanding to our prime minister. It’s time to understand that we need to end the illusions of the Palestinians that they will ever have control over our land. It’s time to impose Jewish sovereignty over all of it,” he said.
Yisrael Porush, mayor of the central Israeli town of Elad, the hometown of Elad Salomon, promised to respond to the attack by increasing Jewish presence in the “all of the Land of Israel.”
“We in Elad will be here for the family. We will be with you but we will also not let this pass without a response. We will double and triple the size of Elad,” Porush told the mourners at the funeral.
Despite the large crowd, which continued to grow right until the end of the ceremony with people either walking from the police roadblock near Modiin or taking municipal shuttles that ran throughout, the occasion had the feeling of an intimate and pensive affair, void of the clamored commotion that has accompanied some past funerals of terror victims.
The family asked television crews not to film the proceedings and declined offers from the president and prime minister to attend. While Minister of Housing and Urban Development Yoav Galant (Kulanu), Deputy Foreign Minsiter Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and various Knesset members from across the political spectrum joined the family, none of them was allowed to address the ceremony.
After the bodies were lowered into the ground one by one, the brief ceremony came to an end with recitation of the Kaddish mourners prayer by members of the family and the Jewish custom for those at the funeral to partake in the burial by shoveling some some of the displaced ground onto the bodies.
Walking back from the gravesides, the crowd, some holding Israeli flags, moved in near silence. Only the occasional plane flying overhead to nearby Ben Gurion Airport broke the soft sound of the shuffling of feet and the leaves of the trees blowing in the wind.