Family, friends and others filled Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery on Wednesday afternoon to mourn 16-year-old Aryeh Schupak, who was killed hours earlier in a bombing at a bus stop a short distance away .
Schupak, a dual Canadian-Israeli citizen, was killed in the first of two terrorist attacks at the bus stops that shook the capital on Wednesday morning.
“I just want to say goodbye to my son Aryeh and apologize for something I did or didn’t do,” Aryeh’s father, Rabbi Moshe Schupak, told mourners in a Englishman with a Russian accent, while choking back her tears. “Only one thing comes to my mind is that there are things that are important and others that are not. Enjoying every minute with the child and with the family.”
Schupak was on his way to Yeshivat Harei Yehuda in Moshav Beit Meir, where he was studying, when a device placed at a bus stop near the western entrance to Jerusalem exploded, killing him. 22 other people were injured in the bombing and by another explosion at a bus stop near Ramot shortly afterwards, including a friend of Schupak’s who accompanied him to school.
Rabbi Naftali Schreiber, head of the yeshiva where Schupak studied, said the teenager considered staying home on Wednesday after feeling unwell in the morning.
Schreiber said a staff member told him not to come in and to rest instead. “But he got over it, got up and decided to go learn at the yeshiva,” Schreiber said.
“A boy who fought hard, set out on a good path despite a tough life. I can testify that no one felt anger against this child. He didn’t know what anger was. He helped everyone on the street and was loved by mankind,” he said.
Shlomo Benjamin, who taught Schupak at the yeshiva, told Kan radio the school was overwhelmed with grief over the death.
“He was the special of the group, a boy really loved by people, loved by all, with humor and a joy of life. He fought like a lion, like his name, to succeed in his studies and the Torah,” Benjamin said.
Few details were available about Schupak, who lived in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Rabbi Avraham Meir Steinfeld, a close friend of the family, told the Walla news site that the family arrived from Russia at least 15 years ago, although reports said the family also spent time in Canada. He described them as “quiet and direct”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mourned Schupak in a tweet.
“Incredibly saddened to learn of the death of a young Canadian in the terrorist attack in Jerusalem. I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends. I am also thinking of those who have been injured, ”he wrote.
Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir was among hundreds who attended the funeral. Earlier, the far-right lawmaker, who is pushing to become the next public security minister, visited the scene of the attacks and called for tougher measures against the perpetrators of terrorism.
“We must return to targeted killings. To raise the price of terror and put an end to partying and frivolity in security prisons. We must establish a government faster, terrorism does not wait.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said two of those injured in the Jerusalem bombings were US citizens and said they needed to recover.
One victim, an Ethiopian immigrant in his 40s, remained hospitalized in critical condition after sustaining serious head injuries in the first bomb attack.
Presumed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished “a speedy recovery to the injured, especially the most seriously injured – an Ethiopian immigrant,” and noted that the terror attack took place on Sigd, an Ethiopian Jewish holiday.
“Today is a holiday for Ethiopian Jews. The terrorist attack happened during Sigd’s holiday, and indeed today we pray for his recovery.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed that security forces would capture the suspected terror cell that planted the two bombs: “We will get to them. They can run, they can hide, it won’t help them. The security forces will join them. If they resist, they will be killed. Otherwise, we will treat them with all the severity of the law.
The first explosion occurred near Jerusalem’s main entrance at Givat Shaul, shortly after 7 a.m., a peak hour for commuters. The second explosion occurred shortly after 7:30 a.m. in Ramot Junction, another Jerusalem neighborhood normally crowded with travellers.
Police suspect the blasts were caused by nearly identical remotely detonated explosive devices hidden behind bus stops in the bushes. The devices were filled with nails to maximize casualties, police officials said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad welcomed the attacks.
The bombings came during a time of heightened tensions, following a series of Palestinian attacks that have claimed 30 lives in Israel and the West Bank since the start of the year, including Wednesday’s attack .
In recent months, there have been several attacks and attempted stabbings in Jerusalem, primarily in the Old City. Last month, a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near Jerusalem.
In the spring, the army launched a major counterterrorism offensive in the West Bank following the attacks.
The operation resulted in more than 2,000 arrests in near-night raids, but also left more than 130 Palestinians dead, many – but not all – in attacks or clashes with security forces.
Bombings of buses and public places were a feature of the second intifada from 2000 to 2005, but have mostly declined over the past 17 years, which Israeli officials have attributed to measures of increased security, including the security fence in the West Bank, and better intelligence.
In 2016, the terrorist group Hamas was accused of bombing a bus in Jerusalem, injuring 21 people. And in 2011, a bomb hidden in a backpack exploded at a bus stop outside the Jerusalem International Convention Center, killing two people and injuring dozens more.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.