He destroyed my family but Jewish unity helps me cope

By Ruth Ellen Gruber, March 29, 2012
Follow The JC on Twitter
Devastated: Eva Sandler

Devastated: Eva Sandler

Support from around the world and the unity of the Jewish people are helping Eva Sandler cope with the murder of her husband and two young sons in Toulouse last week.

"God gives me the strength; without it, I would not be able to stand," she told Israel's Channel 2 on Sunday. "The truth is that I see the unity of the Jewish people, and that strengthens me the most. People came here that I didn't even know; they were wonderful."

Earlier, in a letter published on the Chabad.org website, she urged parents to "please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them" as a way of honouring her murdered family.

Before the attack, she had been concerned about antisemitism but "never anything terrible. No one imagined terror in Toulouse".

French Islamist Mohamed Merah killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler; sons Aryeh, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego in a rampage on March 19 at the Ozar Hatorah school. Merah also claimed responsibility for the deaths of three French paratroopers in two earlier, separate shootings. He died in a violent gun battle with police after a 32-hour siege of his apartment.

Merah's 10-day spree, the worst terrorist attacks in France in decades, sent shock waves across the country and made security a top issue ahead of presidential elections in April and May.

On Sunday, thousands attended a memorial march in Toulouse and a general march against racism in Paris.

Authorities meanwhile arrested Merah's older brother, Abdelkader, 29, and on Sunday issued preliminary charges against him of complicity in murder and involvement in terrorism.

On Monday, President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking re-election, announced that he would bar several Muslim clerics from attending an Islamic conference next month.

In the wake of the attacks, security was intensified at Jewish schools and other locations.

The attack exposed deep rifts between the Muslim and Jewish communities in France. Rabbi Michel Sarfati, who has worked for years to better Muslim-Jewish relations, told Ha'aretz that 50 per cent of French Muslims "hate Jews… because extremist imams denigrate Jews in their sermons. Moderate Muslims try to fight this hatred, but they're being threatened."

    Last updated: 12:31pm, March 29 2012