It took a few days, but after loud outcries and a petition to the White House, President Barack Obama finally called the parents of Ezra Schwartz, the 18-year-old American student murdered last week in a Palestinian terror attack in Israel, to offer his condolences.
Ezra’s young life was tragically cut down while returning with friends to yeshiva after a day that included distributing food to Israeli soldiers in Gush Etzion and a visit to a memorial for the three Israeli teens who were killed in 2014.
In the telephone call Monday, Obama said that Ezra’s Israel studies had strengthened U.S.-Israel ties.
“The president offered his profound condolences and condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that took his life,” a senior administration official told JTA. “The president also underscored that Ezra’s studies in Israel strengthened the bonds between Israel and the United States and, as we mourn his death, those bonds only grow stronger.”
Ezra was to start business school at Rutgers University in New Jersey in the fall.
JTA reports, “The Obama administration condemned the attack on Nov. 20, a day after it occurred, but a number of Jewish groups and commentators complained that the condemnation had not come quickly enough and was from the State Department spokesman rather than the White House. There were further complaints when Obama, in remarks during a news conference in Malaysia on Sunday, singled out for mention two other Americans killed in recent terrorist attacks, in Mali and Paris, but did not mention Schwartz.”
Ezra is survived by his devoted parents, Ari and Ruth Schwartz, and his siblings, Molly, Hillel, Elon and Avi.
The family is sitting shivah at the Schwartz home, located at 24 Ames Court, Sharon, MA 02067.
Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke with Schwartz’s parents, Ari and Ruth Schwartz.
“Just yesterday, I talked to the family of Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, a young man who came here out of high school ready to go to college, excited about his future,” Kerry said Tuesday at a meeting in Yerushalayim with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. “And yesterday, his family was sitting at shiva and I talked to them and heard their feelings, the feelings of any parent who lost their child.”