Harav Yonatan Sandler z"l, his children Aryeh aged 6 and Gavriel aged 3.5, and Miriam Monsoniego aged 8, the daughter of the school's principal, were murdered this morning (Monday) in a shooting attack at the Jewish school Otzar Hatorah in the city of Toulouse, in the south of France. In the high school building there is a shull as well.
The background to the event is uncertain, and the French Minister of Defense hurried to term the murderer "insane!"
The terrorist – who was driving a black motorbike – shot towards a group of people who stood at the collection point outside the school gate, and immediately escaped.
Some of the children who were injured stood in place while waiting for the transport to collect them to the Rashi school which is close by, but the despicable terrorist managed to hit them a minute before they went onto the vehicle.
The media in France reported that as a result of the shooting, four people were killed, including an adult and three children. In addition, there were a few injured on scene, among them two in a hard condition.
Harav Yonatan Sandler z"l, who was killed with two of his children – a resident of Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem – learned in a Kollel in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood until a few months ago, when he left to strengthen the Jewish community of Toulouse, where he worked as a Melamed in the local Cheider.
Another victim is Miriam Monsoniego, aged 8, the daughter of the school principal.
His acquaintances tell of a Jew who had noble traits, who saw in Eretz Yisroel his aspiration, and left it only after the Jewish community in Toulouse asked him to come and help inspire the Judaism in the city.
The European Council of Rabbis issued a statement defying the despicable massacre. "The terrible deed testifies of terrible lack of tolerance. We call upon the authorities in France to do everything in their might in order to bring the criminals to judgment".
The president of the Council, Harav Pinchas Goldshmidt, told Behadrey Haredim that "there is an urgent need to place suitable security means in the Jewish institutions in order to assure the Jews' wellbeing, since time after time it is proven that they are in danger"
Uniting to defy the event
The attack this morning evoked a wave of outraging responses in the political system of France.
The president, Nicolas Sarkozi is supposed to arrive in the city together with Richard Prasquier, the president of the Krief, (the umbrella organization of French Jewry). "This is a harsh tragedy" said the president who is in the midst of a round of elections in the trial to win another term. "This is the situation of the French Republic, on which this terrible tragedy is having an effect".
The leading candidate to the French presidency, Francois Hollande, also expressed his shock at the shooting attack. "I heard with amazement about the murder at the Jewish school of Otzar Hatorah in Toulouse," said Hollande. "This deed, which seems to have anti-Semitic elements, hurt the dearest thing to families, their children, and the entire nation is in mourning".
Hollande mentioned that he too intends to come to Toulouse. "I would like to express my feelings and solidarity with the families and the Jewish community in France," said the socialist candidate.
The candidate of the radical right to the presidency, Mari Le Pen, defied the attack and called upon the authorities "to make every effort in order to prevent another tragedy".
The French Minister of the Interior, Claude Guéant said that he disturbed his fixed daily schedule, and he is making his way to the scene of shooting. The Minister of Interior also instructed, as a result of the shooting, to increase the security around the Jewish schools in the country. Checking the connection to the event on Thursday
In the local police they are checking the connection between the event this morning, to an event which took place last Thursday, in which two French soldiers were killed, and another one injured, when a man opened fire on the group in the village of Montaben, which is situated about 50km from Toulouse. The three were shot when standing in line to a cashpoint.
The police emphasizes that there are at least two apparent lines of similarity between the event today to that of Thursday in Montaben: the shooter used a fire-arm of the same diameter, 0.45", and escaped from the scene on a motorbike.