British man stabbed to death in Jerusalem

British man stabbed to death in Jerusalem

The Independent – United Kingdom; Aug 26, 2005

Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Police were last night hunting a lone Arab who stabbed to death a
21-year-old British Jew and wounded another as they returned from
praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Shmuel Mett, from Golders Green, north London, was stabbed to death
with a kitchen knife two months before he was due to get married in
England.

Mr Mett, an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical student at Jerusalem’s Mir
Yeshiva religious college, was with his close friend Sam Weissbart,
22, also from Golders Green, when the attack happened on David
Street. Mr Weissbart, also a yeshiva student, was stabbed but escaped
to a nearby police station. He was recovering yesterday in the Shaare
Zedek hospital.

David Street, one of the main alleys leading into the heart of the Old
City, runs through the Christian Quarter, which is mainly populated by
Christian Arabs. But Jews frequently go through it to pray at the
Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, without being attacked or
threatened.

Relatives of Mr Weissbart said that a man jumped out at him shouting
something he could not understand.

He said that he thought he had been punched before realising that he
was bleeding from a wound just above the hip bone. He had not seen
what had happened to Mr Mett, whom he had known from childhood.

The murder was caught on one of the many CCTV cameras throughout the
Old City and police were reported to be taking a photograph of the
assailant round the neighbourhood in an effort to find him. Police
said last night that a third yeshiva student, whom they did not
identify, had been walking with the two men and had come forward to
give information.

The dead man’s parents, Percy and Judith, flew immediately to Israel
from London for the funeral yesterday evening at the Mir Yeshiva in
the ultra orthodox Beit Israel neighbourhood. More than 1,000 yeshiva
students and local residents attended the funeral, conducted in
Yiddish and Hebrew, along with eminent scholars and leading rabbis
attached to the yeshiva. Mir Yeshiva is currently on holiday but is
normally attended by 400 to 500 students and is one of the leading
centre of Talmudic scholarship in world Jewry.

One leading mourner sobbed as he cried out in Yiddish: ‘Why do the
disciples of the wise die when they are so small?’ Mr Mett’s fiance,
Dina Rosenfeld, whom he was due to marry in two months, was understood
to have remained in London.

Earlier, Daniel Harrington, a 22-year-old American traveller from
Spokane, Washington, said he had heard a ‘commotion’ at around 8.30pm
on Wednesday and had left the Petra hostel where he was staying to see
what had happened. He said that he had been at the scene for about
four minutes when the police arrived and started to move people back.

Mr Harrington said the blade appeared to be in Mr Mett’s stomach and
that there appeared to be blood running from a second wound on his
leg. He added: ‘When I arrived he was still breathing and he had
colour, but by the time the police moved me on he was as white as a
sheet.’ Students at the yeshiva, largely foreigners unable to go home
for the August break, were among demonstrators on Wednesday evening at
the Hadassah Ein Karem hospital where Mr Mett had been taken,
protesting at reported police plans to hold an autopsy, which
ultra-Orthodox Jews regard as forbidden by their religion.

In the face of the protests ” and the resistance of Mr Mett’s sister,
who lives in Israel ” police announced yesterday morning that they
would not be holding an autopsy but instead there would be a ‘visual
inspection’ of Mr Mett’s wounds by a doctor approved by the dead man’s
family.

At the yeshiva, fellow students, who declined to give their names,
spoke of Mr Mett as a ‘smiley, quiet, boy who was very serious about
studies’. One student, also from Golders Green, said: ‘Shmuel was one
of those people who was impossible to dislike. This is a tragic,
tragic thing.’ The student said that both Mr Mett and Mr Weissbart had
regularly attended the Hagers synagogue in Golders Green.

One family friend, who asked for his name not to be used, said: ‘Sam
couldn’t sleep last night. He said that when he shut his eyes he saw
the man jumping out at him shouting.’ One of Mr Weissbart’s cousins
Noah Feld, said both men ” who had been friends since attending Pardes
House school in Golders Green and had been together at the Gateshead
Yeshiva before coming to Israel ” ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly. They were
gentle, special people’.

Mr Feld said Mr Weissbart had managed to reach the police station at
the Armenian quarter about 300 yards from where the attack took place
in David Street, where a small group of ultra-Orthodox mourners
gathered to pray yesterday afternoon.

Yoram Halevy, commander of the Old City’s police station, said a
Palestinian carried out the stabbings. Police said the attack was
‘nationally’ motivated.

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