Sharon teen killed in attack in the West Bank
SHARON — Ezra Schwartz excelled on the baseball diamond, and mentored youngsters at a New Hampshire summer camp. After graduating from a Jewish high school in Brookline this spring, he set his sights on spending a year abroad in Israel, studying at a yeshiva and doing volunteer work.
On Thursday, Schwartz, an 18-year-old from Sharon, was killed in the West Bank when a van he was traveling in came under attack by a Palestinian gunman, who opened fire on a line of cars stuck in traffic.
Schwartz and other students in his program had spent Thursday visiting a memorial to three teenagers killed in the West Bank last year and delivered food to Israeli soldiers stationed nearby, according to Israeli news site Ynet. The Israeli military said two others — an Israeli and a Palestinian — were killed in the attack, and seven others were wounded. Security forces surrounded and arrested the gunman.
The shooting was part of a wave of violence that began in September over tensions surrounding a Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims. In an earlier attack Thursday in Tel Aviv, two Israeli men were fatally stabbed in a building being used as an improvised synagogue for afternoon prayers.
Palestinians accuse Israel of plotting to take over the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, an accusation the Israelis deny.
Palestinian attacks have claimed the lives of 17 Israelis since the flare-up began. At least 84 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, 52 of them said by Israel to be attackers, the remainder killed in clashes with Israeli troops.
Responding to the two fatal attacks Thursday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on his Facebook page that “behind these terrorist attacks stands radical Islam, which seeks to destroy us, the same radical Islam that struck in Paris and threatens all of Europe.”
“Whoever condemned the attacks in France needs to condemn the attacks in Israel,” Netanyahu wrote. “It’s the same terror. Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind.”
Schwartz’s violent death touched off a wave of anger and grief in the Boston area and beyond.
Jewish groups condemned the attack, and at the Maimonides School in Brookline, where Schwartz graduated earlier this year, students were sent home early.
“The entire Maimonides School community is profoundly saddened as we mourn the tragic loss of our recent graduate Ezra Schwartz, Class of 2015, who was murdered in a terrorist attack today in Israel,” said Naty Katz, the head of school. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Ezra’s family, classmates and friends.”
Schwartz’s relatives could not be reached for comment.
In Sharon, a police officer was parked outside the Schwartz family home on Thursday night.
The officer said his family would not be making public statements.
Dozens of people gathered inside Young Israel of Sharon, an Orthodox synagogue near the Schwartz family home, and offered prayers for Schwartz and his relatives.
Among the attendees was Andy Warren, 48, of Sharon, who described Schwartz as a “sweet boy.”
“He cared about his community, cared a lot about his friends and family,” Warren said. “One of our own.”
Schwartz had worked as a counselor at Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire for many years, said Debbie Sussman, the camp’s director.
“The kids just loved him,” she said. “He was a great kid. A really sweet guy.”
Sarah Salinger, a longtime friend who went to camp with Schwartz, said he was an inspiring, compassionate spirit.
“Ezra was caring, kind, silly, and always wanted to make those around him laugh,” she said. “Ezra always had the right intentions and will always be my best friend.”
At Yeshiva University in New York, where many students knew Schwartz, Rabbi Kenneth Brander said his killing came as a terrible shock.
“So many of our students are feeling a sense of pain and bewilderment,” he said.
In a letter sent to students, Brander wrote that a “great darkness has befallen our people.”
A gathering for students was scheduled for Thursday evening, with counselors on hand.
The group’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, the Soviet-born human rights activist and politician, said he had personally expressed condolences to Schwartz’s family.
“Ezra came to Israel not only to study but also to be a part of the vibrant Israeli experience,” the group said in a post on its Facebook page. “This makes his death even more tragic.”
The US Department of State said it had extended condolences to his family and friends, as did the Consulate General of Israel to New England.
The Anti-Defamation League condemned the attacks and said Schwartz’s killing was heartbreaking.