Maia and Rina Dee: Funerals of sisters killed in occupied West Bank taking place

The funeral of the two sisters is taking place in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Etzion in the West BankEPA

The father of two British-Israeli sisters killed in a shooting in the occupied West Bank embraced their bodies while mourners sang songs of grief at their funeral on Sunday.

Maia and Rina Dee, 20 and 15, were killed on Friday when their car was attacked in the Jordan Valley.

Their funeral was held at a cemetery in the settlement of Kfar Etzion.

Their mother, Leah, remains in a critical condition after surgery to remove bullets from her neck and spine.

The low rhythmic songs swelled and swayed with the crowd, who were packed beneath the white rafters in the cemetery’s prayer hall.

Many at the funeral are teenagers – some from the school Rina went to. At the front, by a low podium, the family gathered, talking together and holding each other for long moments in silence.

The bodies were brought out, one covered in black cloth, one in blue – a star of David embroidered on each, in gold and silver.

They were embraced by their father, Rabbi Leo Dee, originally from London. He then sat back, his face contorted in pain, his hands reaching out to touch his remaining three children.

Maia and Rina Dee were shot as their drove from their home in the settlement of Efrat to Tiberias

PA Media

The family live in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, and moved from London nine years ago.

The car carrying the two sisters and their mother was driven off the road after being shot. The wider family were travelling in three cars for a holiday in Tiberias.

Israeli military personnel blocked roads in the area and said they had “started a pursuit of the terrorists” responsible. Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that 22 bullet casings were found, apparently from a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Speaking to the BBC on Saturday evening, Rabbi Dee described his daughters as beautiful, smart and popular. He said he had not been able to sleep since their deaths.

“Every time, I had nightmares and woke up,” he said, “but the reality was worse than the nightmare, so I went back to sleep. Recurring nightmares… that’s how it went.”

He said Maia, who was volunteering for national service in a high school, was “wonderful, beautiful, had a lot of friends… she was very keen to do a second year of volunteering”.

Rina, he said, was “beautiful, fun, very smart, top grades in every subject, very popular with friends, sporty… very responsible, she would take responsibility for many things”.

“When it came to sweeping out the youth club floor, if other people didn’t turn up, she would be there by herself for three hours on a Friday morning, to make sure it was done,” he said.

Rabbi Dee heard news of the attack without realising his own family were involved, he said.

He called his wife and daughters, but they did not answer. He then saw a picture online of the car that was attacked.

“And we could just see one of our suitcases in the back seat,” he said. “There was a massive panic and screaming.”

He then drove to the scene. He was not allowed access but was handed his daughter’s ID card, which confirmed the worst.

Rabbi Dee has said he and his three remaining children “will get through this”.

Mourners cry at the funeral of British-Israeli sisters Rina and Maya Dee

Getty Images

Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury, from the Hendon United Synagogue in north London, said he spoke briefly with his close friend Rabbi Dee before the funerals.

“Naturally, as are we all, [he was] devastated, shocked at how just in a few moments with an act of absolute evil and madness – insanity – things can change around,” he told the BBC.

“The loss of two gorgeous daughters, and his wife now lying critically ill in a hospital in Jerusalem.

“But through the sadness there’s still that determination that he has to find any positives one can find, to try and be strong for his remaining children.”

Rabbi Ginsbury added that Rabbi Dee felt “supported and embraced by a blanket of warmth and love” from within Israel and from people across world who had contacted him.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described the incident as a terror attack, sent his condolences to the family in a tweet naming the sisters on Saturday.

The UK’s chief rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, said that “no words can describe the depth of our shock and sadness at the heart-breaking news”.

After the two sisters were shot, Israel Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai called on all Israelis with firearms licences to start carrying their weapons.

Also on Friday, an Italian tourist was killed and seven other people were wounded, including three Britons, in a suspected car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv.

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