JERUSALEM – A rabbi with a seminary in Jerusalem has identified a 16-year-old Canadian-Israeli student as a person killed in one of two blasts that went off near bus stops in the city.
Rabbi Refaen Rockmill said Aryeh Shechopek was a very special student who is being mourned by his peers.
“He was always smiling. Everyone loved him. Loved him. And he loved everyone else,” Rockmill said Wednesday.
“He always did everything to try his best, and in getting on with life, and doing the right things and trying his best to be a good person.”
He said Aryeh will be missed greatly by those at the Harei Yehuda Yeshiva school. The teen had started his second year of studies there in September.
Rockmill said the boy hadn’t been feeling well in the morning and was contemplating whether or not to attend classes.
He died whilewaiting for the bus, said the rabbi.
“He decided he wanted to come, even though he got up a little miserable, but he decided he wanted to come because he loves the place, the whole place because … we’re a family,” Rockmill said.
Another student, who was waiting with Aryeh, survived the attack, said Rockmill.
“We know that we have a purpose in our life, and … we love each other and we understand what God wants us to deal with,” Rockmill said.
“So we will deal with it the best we (can), and we hope we do it in the rightest way that we (can).”
The blasts went off during rush-hour traffic, killing the teen and injuring at least 18 others in what police say were attacks by Palestinians.
“It was a crazy explosion. There is damage everywhere here,” said Yosef Haim Gabay, a medic who was at the scene when the first blast occurred. “I saw people with wounds bleeding all over the place.”
The first explosion occurred near a typically crowded bus stop on the edge of the city. The second went off about half an hour later in Ramot, a settlement in the city’s north.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attacks on Twitter and paid tribute to Aryeh.
“Incredibly saddened to learn about the death of a young Canadian in the terrorist attack in Jerusalem. I’m sending his family and friends my deepest condolences,” Trudeau said.
“I’m also thinking of those who were injured. Canada condemns this violence in the strongest possible terms.”
Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer, also condemned the attack in a tweet, confirming the person who died was a Canadian citizen.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been surging for months, amid nightly Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank prompted by a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people in the spring. There has been an uptick in recent weeks in Palestinian attacks.
“It is a heartbreaking day with Israel once again shaken by a horrific deadly terror attack that has killed a Canadian-Israeli boy. This is a heinous act of violence and hatred that targeted innocent people simply because they are Jewish,” Michael Levitt, of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement.
“Such vile acts must be strongly denounced by all Canadians and people around the world.”
Police, who were searching for the suspected attackers, said initial findings showed that shrapnel-laden explosive devices were placed at the two sites. They said additional officers were deployed to the city after the blasts.
The Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and once carried out suicide bombings against Israelis, praised the perpetrators of the attacks, calling it a heroic operation, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
“The occupation is reaping the price of its crimes and aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanua said.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2006.
At least eight Israelis have been killed in the most recent wave of Palestinian attacks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2022.
– By Mickey Djuric in Regina, with files from The Associated Press