‘The Blood of Their Brothers Was Spilled Like Water:’ Jewish Victim Recovery Team Recalls Horrific Scene at Paris Market
An Israeli medical team that specializes in gathering the remains of murdered victims of terrorist attacks has described the traumatic scene that awaited them in the aisles of the HyperCacher kosher market, where four Jews were killed and four others critically wounded in the second of the two terror sieges that gripped Paris on Friday.
“It was a very difficult scene inside the supermarket,” Paris ZAKA volunteer Avraham Weinberg said of the bloodshed at the market, where a terrorist claiming affiliation with Islamic State, Amedy Coulibaly, held several hostages in a seven-hour standoff with armed police.
“They saw Jews from France and Israel coming together to perform true virtue – the holiest work of Chesed Shel Emet – with the blood of their brothers which was spilled like water,” added a visibly moved Rabbi Tzemach Ben Naim, who heads the ZAKA unit in Paris, as he noted the number of religious and secular French Jews who gathered to watch the team at work.
In a statement release by ZAKA, Weinberg said, “It was as if time stood still, with shopping carts full of food in preparation for Shabbat in the cashier aisles and deliveries waiting to be sent to customers. But the floor was covered in the blood of the victims.”
ZAKA International Rescue Unit head Mati Goldstein and veteran ZAKA volunteer Dano Monkotovitz immediately joined their local volunteer colleagues upon arriving from Israel on Sunday evening.
“We went to the supermarket late at night under the security of the French police and we worked to gather all the findings at the scene,” Goldstein said, noting that local squad members personally knew some of the victims.
Yohan Cohen, 22, Philippe Braham, 40, Yoav Hattab, 21, and François-Michel Saada, 55, were shot and killed in the attack.
“The Parisian volunteers of ZAKA, who we trained only a year ago at the initiative of the President of the Consistoire in France, Dr. Joel Mergui, were very professional in their response, despite the pain that comes with personal acquaintance with the victims,” Goldstein said.
The four victims will be buried in a state ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Rabbi Ben Naim, who also serves as the President of the Jewish Burial Society in Paris, pointed out that “at first, the French police did not understand why it is important for us to enter the scene and collect the findings of the victims in order to give them a proper Jewish burial. However, after we explained the religious significance to them, we received the necessary authorization.”
The ZAKA volunteers also worked at the scene of last Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where three Jews were among the victims.