Our hearts were broken when we heard about the shocking and cold-blooded murder of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler HY”D and his sons, Aryeh HY”D and Gavriel HY”D , and of Miriam Monsonego HY”D, daughter of the dedicated principal of Ozar Hatorah school, five years ago today.
The Ozar Hatorah school attack was the third attack committed by one man named Mohammed Mera. The first attack occurred a week earlier when a French paratrooper was shot dead in Toulouse.
A second attack a few days later claimed the lives of two uniformed French soldiers and seriously injured another in a Montauban shopping center.
At about 8:00 am on the morning of the school attack, a man rode up to the Ozar Hatorah school on a motorcycle. Dismounting, he immediately opened fire toward the schoolyard. The first victim was a Rabbi Sandler who was bringing his two young sons to the school as he was shot outside the school gates.
Rabbi Sandler tried to shield his two young sons from the terrorist but the terrorist shot both the boys as well. The terrorist them calmly walked into the schoolyard, chasing people into the building.
Inside, he shot at staff, parents, and students. He chased an 8-year-old girl, Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the school principal of Ozar Hatorah school into the playground, caught her by her hair and raised a gun to shoot her. The gun jammed at this point. He changed weapons from what the police identified as a 9mm pistol to a .45 caliber gun, and shot the girl in her temple at point-blank range.The cowardly terrorist then calmly walked away to his moped and rode away.
The Toulouse school attack was an eye opener for the French community and the first major attack which sparked increased security and raised the terrorist warnings to the highest level. It also made France offer all Jewish institutions with additional security.
An intelligence adviser to President Sarkozy, later said that Merah had wanted to kill another soldier in Toulouse, but arrived too late and instead attacked the nearby Jewish school.
Police escort students away from Ozar Hatorah
Four people were killed at the school: 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan (Yonatan) Sandler; his two oldest (out of three) children, Aryeh, aged 6, and Gabriel, aged 3; and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the prinipal.
Bryan Bijaoui, a 17-year-old Jewish boy, was shot and gravely injured at the school. Bijaoui’s tried to rush Miriam Monsonego into the school after the shooting started, but instead witnessed the young girl’s murder in front of his eyes. When Bijaoui regained consciousness, his first words were to ask about Miriam.
It was the worst school-related attack in French history.
The bodies of all four dead were flown to Israel accompanied by the French foreign minister.They were buried by family members at the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.
WATCH: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech in French about the Ozar Hatorah Victims.
Eve Sandler, wife of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and mother of said the following words at the funeral.
“My heart is broken. I am unable to speak. There are no ways for me to be able to express the great and all-consuming pain resulting from the murder of my dear husband Rabbi Jonathan and our sons, Aryeh and Gavriel, and of Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the dedicated principal of Ozar Hatorah and his wife, Rabbi Yaakov and Mrs. Monsonego.
May no one ever have to endure such pain and suffering.
Because so many of you, my cherished brothers and sisters in France and around the world, are asking what you can do on my behalf, on behalf of my daughter Liora and on behalf of the souls of my dear husband and children, I feel that, difficult though it may be, it is incumbent upon me to answer your entreaties.
My husband’s life was dedicated to teaching Torah. We moved back to the country of his birth to help young people learn about the beauty of Torah. He was truly a good man, loving, giving, and selfless. He was sensitive to all of G‑d’s creatures, always searching for ways to reveal the goodness in others.
He and I raised Aryeh and Gavriel to live the ways of Torah. Who would have known how short would be their time on this Earth, how short would be the time I would be with them as their mother?
I don’t know how I and my husband’s parents and sister will find the consolation and strength to carry on, but I know that the ways of G‑d are good, and He will reveal the path and give us the strength to continue. I know that their holy souls will remain with us forever, and I know that very soon the time will come when we will be together again with the coming of Moshiach.
I wholeheartedly believe in the words of the verse: “The L-ord has given, and the L-ord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the L-ord.” I thank the Almighty for the privilege, short though it was, of raising my children together with my husband. Now the Almighty wants them back with Him.
To all those who wish to bring consolation to our family and contentment to the souls of the departed: Let’s continue their lives on this Earth.
Parents, please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and with love of their fellow man.
Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends. Help others who may find study difficult to achieve alone.
Please bring more light into the world by kindling the Sabbath candles this and every Friday night. (Please do so a bit earlier than the published times as a way to add holiness to our world.)
The holiday of Passover is approaching. Please invite another person into your homes so that all have a place at a Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom.
Along with our tearful remembrance of our trials in Egypt so many years ago, we still tell over how “in each and every generation, they have stood against us to destroy us.” We all will announce in a loud and clear voice: “G‑d saves us from their hands.”
The spirit of the Jewish people can never be extinguished; its connection with Torah and its commandments can never be destroyed.
May it be G‑d’s will that from this moment on, we will all only know happiness.
I send my heartfelt condolences to the Monsonego family for the loss of their daughter Miriam, and I pray for the speedy recovery of Aharon ben Leah, who was injured in the attack.
Thank you for your support and love.”
The police conducted one of the biggest manhunts in modern French history. They erected roadblocks in Toulouse and placed extra security outside Jewish and Islamic schools across France. Because the victims were Jewish, police initially suspected the involvement of neo-Nazis. Since Merah had previously drawn little police or security attention, police did not initially identify him as a suspect, even as he committed more murders. Merah also cleaned the magazine and bullet casings he left to prevent identification of fingerprints or DNA.
Merah had asked a motorcycle mechanic in Toulouse about removing a GPS anti-theft tracking device on his bike, and told the mechanic he had just repainted the bike white. The mechanic alerted the police to Merah’s actions, who identified the motorcycle as the one used in the attacks.
Siege and perpetrator’s death
An hour before police surrounded his apartment, Merah called a French television station and said that his “acts were not only necessary, but that they were to uphold the honor of Islam.” According to police “He said he was in connection with al Qaeda, that what he had done was only the beginning. He said he was against the French ban on face covering.”[
French police tried to arrest Merah at his apartment but Merah shot at the police through the door, injuring three police officers in the process.
The elite police anti-terrorist unit, RAID, surrounded the building and evacuated it and all nearby buildings. They trained powerful spotlights on Merah’s building in an attempt to blind him and prevent him from observing police operations. They cut off electricity and gas supplies to the apartment and switched off the street lights in the neighborhood.
Merah exchanged a firearm for a walkie-talkie as arranged by police; he told them the location of a bag containing the camera used to film his attacks.
Merah informed the police that he intended to give himself up later that evening. Contact was established with him at that time, but Merah said that he would not give up without a fight and would kill policemen if necessary. The police blew off the window shutters with a grenade, after which two shots were heard. After that there was no response from Merah until 11:00 the next day. The police continued the explosions at regular intervals, in an effort to wear Merah down. Officers did not know if Merah was alive, as he did not respond to the series of explosions during the night and day.
A team of 15 specially trained officers decided to enter the apartment first by the door, then using the windows, whose shutters had been removed during the night. The team deployed technical devices and video equipment to inspect the different rooms.
No presence was detected until a device was introduced into the bathroom. At that point, Merah emerged, shooting long and frequent bursts.The officers returned fire and snipers opposite attempted to neutralize him. Merah jumped out of the window with weapon in hand and continued to shoot. Merah was shot in the head by a police sniper and was found dead on the ground.
During the standoff with police, Merah told police that he intended to keep on attacking, and he loved death the way the police loved life.
Wikipedia contributed to this article.