The Israeli city of Netanya showed its solidarity with the city of Nice on Saturday night. Thousands gathered to commemorate the victims of the truck terror attack the previous Thursday.

Netanya’s mayor, Miriam Feierberg, said: “Just two days ago we celebrated Bastille Day here, in this square. We never imagined that we’d be back here under these circumstances. Now we mourn alongside our twin city.” Netanya residents are only too aware that their city has also endured numerous terror attacks, notably the Park Hotel bombing in 2002 which claimed 30 lives. Last month alert pedestrians thwarted a stabbing attack in the city’s busy market.

The French ambassador to Israel, Patrick Mizonab, led the crowd in a minute’s silence. Afterwards he praised Israel’s stoicism: “The choices before us are very clear – to surrender or to resist. I recognise more than ever the desire for life and freedom and not even the slightest desire to surrender.”

“We were back there [in Nice] two weeks ago, for a holiday,” said Nicole Hasson, who attended the rally with her husband Serge and their grandson. “Actually we feel angry about the tragedy. We think the police could have done something about it.”

20160716_222034Nearby, two teenage girls sobbed and typed furiously into their mobile phones. Stella and Ludivine emigrated to Netanya ten months ago from Nice. Many friends and relatives still live in Nice. “Thank god, everyone is okay,” Stella said. She is sixteen, and attends a French-speaking boarding school in Haifa, where she is studying for her bagrut matriculation. Ludivine is looking for a job. “Maybe in a flower shop. I don’t know. It’s hard.”

Knesset Member Ayoub Kara reminded the crowd that “We are all Israel. We are all Nice. We are all Netanya.” Kara, a Druze, is a Likud party member and serves as deputy minister for regional cooperation. “I’m not Jewish, but I care just as deeply for the Jewish people as if I was Jewish,” he told the crowd, to loud appreciative applause. He went on: “People in the West live innocently, receiving refugees from the Arab world who then carry out attacks mainly against the French people. The unfortunate fact that Arab leaders did not condemn terrorism is criminal and brutal”.

Martine Vaknin, Deputy Mayor of Nice, was on vacation in Netanya when the tragedy struck. “I’m crying for my city, for the children of my city,” she said. “Netanya understands what Nice is going through.” A French singer led the crowd in emotional renditions of the two national anthems, the Marseillaise and the Hatikva.

Meanwhile, news emerged this week of how four 18-year-old Jewish women had a lucky escape during last Thursday’s terror attack. The group, teaching assistants from Gan Yisrael Nursery, were also watching the display and crossed the road just seconds before the truck sped through.
“They were crying and completely traumatised after seeing so many bodies mangled, they could not speak,” said Esther. “It was a miracle they were not physically hurt, thank God”.
Still others had lucky escapes. Orly Rosin, who lives in Hampstead, flew out to visit her parents last week, and had planned to watch the fireworks with her mother, but stayed in as she felt unwell. “I was shocked when I woke up,” she said, after placing flowers and cards on the Promenade. “That so many people were killed in an area that I was supposed to be. It’s a feeling of disbelief.”