‘You are two flames who have not gone out’: Devastated rabbi father says his murdered British-Israeli daughters, 20 and 15, ‘will bring more light to the world’ in tribute during funeral attended by thousands after pair were gunned down in West Bank
- West Bank shooting left two British nationals dead and mother in hospital
- Sisters’ father paid tribute to them at their funeral at a cemetery in Kfar Etzion
- Violent clashes between factions escalate in wake of police raids on mosque
The devastated father of two British-Israeli sisters who were murdered in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Friday has told how their memory will be kept alive, describing them as ‘two flames who have not gone out’.
Heartbroken Rabbi Leo Dee described Maia and Rina Dee, 20 and 15, as his ‘two precious gifts’.
The sisters were killed in a shooting by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank near the Hamra settlement, 30 miles north of Jerusalem, on Friday. Their mother, Lucy, 45, who was travelling with them during the attack, remains in a critical condition.
The Dee family was originally from London but moved to Efrat in the West Bank nine years ago.
Mourners, including school friends of the sisters, gathered at the funeral in the settlement of Kfar Etzion in the West Bank and sang songs of grief under in the cemetery’s prayer hall.
In an emotional tribute, Rabbi Dee called his daughters flames, saying they will ‘bring more light into the world’ after their deaths.
British sisters Maia (left) and Rina (right) were murdered in a West Bank drive-by shooting
Rabbi Leo Dee, 51, (pictured) the father of two British sisters who were murdered in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Friday broke down in tears as he paid tribute to his ‘beautiful angels’ at their funeral
Speaking at his daughters’ funeral, a grief-stricken Rabbi Dee said: ‘How will I explain to Lucy [his critically injured wife] what has happened to our two precious gifts?’
Heart-breaking images showed Rabbi Leo Dee (right) mourning the loss of the two sisters with relatives
Young mourners were seen sobbing at the sisters’ funeral service, held yesterday, in which their father described them as ‘two flames who have not gone out’
An aerial view shows friends and family of Maia and Rina Dee gathering for their funeral in Kfar Etzion
He added: ‘You have inspired and loved us. In return we will love you forever.’
The sisters’ bodies were covered in pieces of cloth embroidered with the star of David, one black and the other blue. Rabbi Dee hugged his daughter’s bodies tightly, then sat with his three surviving children. Addressing the mourners, he said of his wife, who is in a coma: ‘How will I explain to Lucy what has happened to our two precious gifts?’
READ MORE: Britain’s Chief Rabbi pays tribute to two ‘much loved’ British sisters murdered in West Bank drive-by shooting
In his tribute to Maia he said: ‘You were always an angel and now you will always be our guardian angel.
‘You wanted to sign up for another year of national service, where you could really make a difference. But mummy and I wanted you to start your studies and maybe meet a special boy.
‘But you insisted that girls like you always do two years of volunteering so we waited to see what and where this would be.’
Turning to Rina, he said: ‘You were such a great student. Such a great friend. You dreamt of travelling the world, now you are travelling to heaven.’ Family friend and senior rabbi at Hendon United Synagogue in north-west London, Mordechai Ginsbury, told Sky News he was ‘devastated’.
‘To think that in a few moments, so senselessly and painfully, this has happened, such a tragic loss of life, of goodness, is just devastating,’ he said.
He added: ‘They were just a delightful family, full of commitment, vigour, passion, energy, and they did wonderful things for us in the community.’
Many of those who attended the funeral were teenagers – including some of Rina’s school friends
Songs of grief filled the cemetery as mourners gathered to pay their respects to the ‘much loved’ British sisters
Rabbi Dee, who was formerly a City investment banker, believes that the killers will be ‘brought to justice’
The girls’ mother Lucianne, 45, who was also in the gunned-down car, is fighting for her life in hospital after undergoing surgery to remove bullets from her neck and spine
Friends and relatives of the dead girls are comforted during the moving service in tribute to the dead teenagers
Heart-breaking pictures from the funeral service showed mourners screaming out in pain and embracing one another
The BBC reports that songs of grief filled the cemetery as hundreds of mourners, many of whom were teenagers, paid their respects to the two sisters
Relatives lean over the shrouded bodies of the dead sisters in grief at their funeral on Easter Sunday
Heart-breaking pictures from the funeral service showed mourners screaming out in pain and embracing one another as they try to process the shock death of the sisters which came amid soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
The car that the victims were travelling in crashed after coming under fire, before the gunmen continued to shoot at close range, according to Israeli media.
Rabbi Dee, who gathered with relatives at the front of the prayer hall next to a low podium, moved to Israel from London with his family nine years ago and had been living in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.
Mr Dee was formerly a senior rabbi at the Radlett United Synagogue in Hertfordshire and before that he was an assistant rabbi in Hendon, north London.
Mordechai Ginsbury, senior rabbi at Hendon United Synagogue, who is still in touch with the family said he was feeling ‘absolute devastation, pain, grief and shock’.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: ‘To think that in a few moments, so senselessly and painfully, this has happened, such a tragic loss of life, of goodness, is just devastating.’
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis (pictured) paid tribute to the two ‘much loved’ British sisters who were killed on Friday
Sir Ephraim Mirvis said that ‘no words can describe the depth of our shock and sadness at the heart-breaking news’
Distraught mourners attend the funeral of the two British-Israeli sisters who were shot dead in an attack on Friday
Rabbi Ginsbury said he spoke to Rabbi Dee last night, where the father and husband admitted that ‘one of the things that is sustaining him is the blanket of warmth and love which is enveloping them within Israel and around the world’.
Last night, Britain’s Chief Rabbi has paid tribute to the two ‘much loved’ sisters, adding ‘no words can describe the depth of our shock and sadness at the heart-breaking news’.
Paying tribute to the sisters on Twitter, Chief Rabbi Mervis said: ‘No words can describe the depth of our shock and sadness at the heart-breaking news of the murder by terrorists in Israel of Maya & Rina Dee, daughters of Rebbetzen Lucy, who is in a critical condition & Rabbi Leo Dee, my dear colleagues.
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‘They were much loved in the Hendon and Radlett communities in the UK as well as in Israel, and well beyond. We pray for a refuah shelema for Rebbetzen Lucy and also for those injured in the terrorist attack yesterday on the promenade in Tel Aviv.’
Mr Dee, who quit his job as a City investment banker to become a rabbi, believes that the killers will be ‘brought to justice’.
He previously revealed that he traced the car down with a tracking device, where he saw his wife being airlifted to hospital but his daughters were already dead.
Speaking from his wife’s hospital bedside, Rabbi Dee told The Mail on Sunday that he was travelling with other family members in a car some distance ahead when a relative called to ask if he knew ‘about the shooting and if the family was OK’.
‘I said everyone was fine, but when I called my wife and two daughters there was no answer.’
In panic, he turned on a Google tracking device which allows parents to follow their children’s mobile phones. It led him to the Hamra settlement, 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
London-born Rabbi Dee said: ‘My daughters were friends of each other as well as sisters. Now we are diminished. Maya was doing national service in the south, and was passionate about helping others. Rina is what you would call an A* pupil. We were proud of them.
‘My wife’s condition is very serious. We are praying, and people around the world are praying, that she will get better.’
He added: ‘I don’t blame the terrorists as they will be brought to justice. I am more worried about the tensions between Jews in Israel. Some people think that the new religious government will suppress minority rights and become totalitarian. But this is not a risk as Judaism is about balancing love and justice.’
The Dee family left Britain in 2014, having returned there from Israel in 2008. They then moved back to Jerusalem, where Rabbi Dee is a highly respected author and academic.
On leaving the Radlett United Synagogue in Hertfordshire he said: ‘It has been a tremendous honour for Lucy and I to have lived in this warm and friendly community. We will cherish this period of our lives.’
The funeral for the sisters was held in Efrat. Pictured: Israeli medics and police check the damaged car at the scene of a shooting
Israeli forces gather near the Hamra junction in the northern part of the Jordan valley in the occupied West Bank following the shooting
Israeli medics and policemen check a damaged car at the scene of a shooting attack
Cars line up next to the Hamra junction, in the northern part of the Jordan valley in the occupied West Bank after the April 7 attack
Friends described the sisters as ‘beautiful, kind and happy young women’.
Rabbi Dee said he had lived in Israel prior to returning to Britain in 2008, but the family had missed it ‘intensely’ and decided to return.
‘We love the Jewish state, the huge array of Jewish learning institutions, the fact that the buses stop on Shabbat, the ability to buy kosher food at any supermarket and a culture that is fully in tune with our own,’ he added.
READ MORE: British holidaymakers are confirmed wounded in Tel Aviv terror attack when driver ploughed into pedestrians after father watched his two British daughters get shot dead in front of him in separate horror
After the attack, the Israeli Prime Minister wrote a personal tribute on Twitter for the sisters killed in the attack: ‘On behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I send my condolences to the Di Mafart family for the murder of the two wonderful sisters, Rina and Maya.’
He added: ‘In these moments, if the family is fighting for its life, and together with the entire nation of Israel, I pray for its safety, and we all send our condolences and strength to this dear family in this moment of great sorrow.’
In London, the Foreign Office confirmed the deaths of the two sisters and appealed for all sides in the Israel-Palestine dispute to de-escalate a situation which has seen violence flare up in recent days.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: ‘I am shocked by reports of the killing of two British sisters in an appalling and cowardly attack in the West Bank.
‘My thoughts are with their family and loved ones. More civilian victims of this cycle of violence show the urgent need for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate.’
The attack came amid escalating violence between Palestinians and Israeli factions in response to clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem earlier this week.
The Israeli military initially reported that the Hamra shooting was caused by a collision between Israeli and Palestinian drivers.
Troops then said that they had found bullet holes in the Israeli vehicle and deemed it a deliberate attack.
Kan, an Israeli public broadcaster, said that 22 bullet casings were found.
In response, Israel Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai called on all Israelis with firearms licences to start carrying their weapons.
Israeli Major General Yehuda Fuchs said they were reinforcing in all sectors and would find those responsible.
Soon after the attack, a car in Tel Aviv mounted the pavement and drove into pedestrians, killing one and injuring several.
Security measures were again ramped up in response. The Times of Israel reported that the IDF was planning to bolster the police forces as police prepared for unrest at Al-Aqsa.
An unspecified number of air force reservists including fighter pilots and drone operators were also called up yesterday.
A car in Tel Aviv overturned after driving into pedestrians and losing control on Friday
One was killed and seven were injured in the attack which took place this evening in Israel
Rockets hit Bezet and Shlomi in the north of Israel on Thursday as regional violence worsens
The attacks on Friday followed on from the Israeli bombing of Gaza and Tyre on Thursday night as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an ‘aggressive response’ to rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel that afternoon.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but an IDF spokesperson blamed Hamas, the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip.
The barrage, in turn, followed Israeli police storming the holy Al-Aqsa mosque compound with tear gas and stun grenades on Wednesday morning.
Violent scenes showed police using weapons to beat worshippers barricaded in the mosque, who retaliated by shooting fireworks and throwing stones.
The Israeli bombing of Gaza reportedly damaged a children’s hospital, further fomenting tensions ahead of the two outbursts on Friday.
Al-Araby al-Jadeed reported yesterday that in response to the attacks Israeli forces had ‘closed all entrances to Jericho with military checkpoints, and are searching all vehicles’ to find those responsible for the shooting in Hamra.
The outlet, founded by a former Israeli MP, cited local sources claiming that settlers under protection of the Israeli army were pursuing revenge attacks, ‘burning houses and farm machinery’ in Faroush and ‘beginning to mount further attacks on local residents’.
Hamas did not claim responsibility for the attack but said it was a ‘natural response to [Israel’s] ongoing crimes against the Al-Aqsa mosque and its barbaric aggression against Lebanon and the steadfast Gaza.’
Fire and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza Strip, Friday, April 7, 2023
The Israeli military struck targets in the Gaza Strip, pushing the region toward a wider conflagration after a day of rocket fire along the country’s northern and southern borders
Palestinian mourners carry the body of 20-year-old Ayed Azzam, who was reportedly shot dead by Israeli forces on Saturday
The IDF have stressed Israeli warplanes targeted infrastructure belonging to Palestinian armed groups, as opposed to civilian infrastructure.
Hamas targets in the city of Tyre in the south of Lebanon were also hit in the assault.
There were no reports of serious casualties, but residents in Qalili, Lebanon, were injured in the bombardment.
The Palestinian health ministry said ‘partial damage’ was done to the Al-Dorra children’s hospital in Gaza City during the strikes.
Hecht said the IDF was aware of the allegation and was looking into it as the local UN forces urged restraint.
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