Rutgers-bound student killed by Palestinian in day of bloody violence
A Rutgers-bound student with family in New Jersey was among those killed in a severely bloody day of Israeli-Palestinian violence Thursday.
Ezra Schwartz — an 18-year-old American who lived in Sharon, Mass. and who was headed for Rutgers next year — was spending a year in Israel when he died as part of an attack by a Palestinian man that killed three people. Also dead was an Israeli citizen and a Palestinian man, though police said it was unclear if the Palestinian killed was hit by the attacker's fire or that of Israeli forces.
According to an Associated Press report, a Palestinian motorist opened fire on a line of cars stuck in traffic in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The Israeli military said the attacker then intentionally rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians.
The military said soldiers shot at the attacker, although his condition and identity were unknown.
According to the Israeli Government Press Office, Schwartz studied in a Jewish seminary outside Jerusalem and had come to Israel on Masa, a program that brings young Jews from abroad to live in the country.
"Ezra came to Israel not only to study but also to be a part of the vibrant Israeli experience. This makes his death even more tragic," Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, said.
Schwartz had recently graduated from the Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass.
In a statement released Thursday, the school said it had "suffered an unbearable loss."
"We offer our deepest condolences to Ezra's family, classmates, and friends. May the Schwartz family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem," it wrote.
Friday, the school shared further reflections on Schwartz's life in a message to its community. It said he came to Maimonides as a seventh-grade student. Quoting his seventh-grade dean, Aliza Baronofsky, the school said Schwartz "brought with him a playfulness that enabled him to bring joy to the lives of others and inject humor into ordinary moments."
Schwartz was a baseball player who'd spent three years on the school's varsity team.
"Ezra was an incredible teammate and was always so kind and easy to talk to," the school quoted classmate Benji Berg saying.
Schwartz had helped build a curriculum at the Striar Hebrew Academy-Sharon as well. "He was great with kids," Rabbi Yaakov Jaffee wrote in the statement from the school.
His science teacher, David Fischer, described Schwartz as "as genuine a person as you'll ever meet. There was no pretension and no falseness ù he told you what he thought, whether you wanted to hear it or not."
According to the school, Rabbi Yaakov Don was a passenger with Schwartz and also killed in the attack. He was also a previous student of the school.
NJ.com quotes Schwartz's aunt, Tammy Thurm, saying that when the attack occurred, Schwartz was with school mates on their way home from a community service project to construct a park in honor of three boys gunned down by terrorists last year.
The NJ.com report also says Schwartz's grandparents live in Edison.
The attack Thursday followed another in Israel — when a knife-wielding man stabbed and killed two Israelis as several of them gathered for afternoon prayers at an office building in the Israeli commercial center of Tel Aviv.
The attacks are part of a wave of violence that began in mid-September over tensions surrounding a site considered holy by both Jews and Muslims.
The U.S. Department of State said it extended its condolences to Schwartz's family and friends.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.