NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Brooklyn father on Monday was forced to say goodbye to his seven children, all lost in a fire this past weekend.
The seven Jewish siblings who were killed in the devastating house fire in Midwood early this past Saturday were laid to rest in Jerusalem on Monday, at an emotional ceremony attended by several thousand mourners.
Friends and relatives of the Sassoon family attended the service, as well as supporters who only learned of the tragedy through the news. The chief rabbi of Israel and mayor of Jerusalem also paid their respects.
“Why seven?” Seven beautiful lilies,” their father, Gabriel Sassoon, cried out during a eulogy. “So pure. So pure.”
The bodies of the Sassoon siblings, ages 5 to 16, were flown to Israel form New York in small wooden coffins, and whisked away to Jerusalem in a convoy escorted by police.
Sassoon recounted how his children enjoyed studying the Torah and other Jewish texts.
“They were such innocent children,” he said, his voice choking up. He later called out the names of his children, one by one.
In agony, he said in Hebrew that he finds strength in trusting in God’s plan.
Sassoon described how his wife, although burned, managed to jump out of a second-floor window to try and get help to save her children. He said he is drawing on his faith for strength.
The children’s bodies, wrapped in shrouds, were placed on stretchers for the memorial service, held in a room at Jerusalem’s main cemetery packed with scores of mourners. Thousands more stood outside.
Some mourners rocked back and forth in prayer, their cheeks wet with tears, as they listened to the eulogies. Afterward, many in the crowd walked with the family in a procession to bury the bodies.
Israeli media have said the family lived in Jerusalem before moving to New York two years ago.
Alon Edri, who identified himself as a rabbi and relative of the family, said it was significant for the religious family to be buried in the Holy Land.
“We believe that being buried in Israel is important because all of your sins are then absolved,” he said.
Meanwhile back in Brooklyn Monday night, the Nets held a moment of silence for the Sassoon family before their game against the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center.