US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has cancelled his planned appearance at a memorial service scheduled for next week in honor of an American Jewish teenager murdered in a terror attack in Gush Etzion two years ago.
Earlier this week, Friedman told organizers from the Orot Yehuda Yeshiva in Efrat that he had accepted their invitation to a service honoring Ezra Yehiel Schwartz, an 18-year-old American yeshiva student who was killed along with two others in a terror attack in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem in 2015.
Schwartz, a native of Sharon, Massachusetts, had been studying in the Ashreinu Yeshiva in Beit Shemesh during his year-long stay in Israel.
The memorial event, planned for next Tuesday, will take place in the Oz Vegaon park, near the scene of the deadly attack in November 2015 in Judea.
The preserve was initially designated an ‘unauthorized outpost’, but subsequently received backing from then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who endorsed retroactive authorization for the park.
While initially dedicated to the memory of the three murdered Israeli teens kidnapped in 2014, in December 2015, a month after their son’s death, the Schwartz family sponsored the paving of a new hiking trail there in Ezra’s honor.
Organizers of the event said that Ambassador Friedman initially accepted an invitation, which had been extended to the ambassador because Schwartz was an American citizen.
Embassy officials never officially confirmed Friedman would participate, citing their policy of nondisclosure regarding the ambassador’s schedule.
“As per our policy, we do not respond to questions regarding the ambassador’s schedule,” an embassy spokesperson said.
But officials from the Orot Yehuda Yeshiva say embassy security staff responsible for the ambassador’s safety had begun scouting out the location of the planned event and working with organizers to evaluate the viability of the ambassador participating, Yisrael Hayom reported on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, however, organizers say the ambassador had clarified that he would be unable to attend the event.
The Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom suggested that the ambassador had been pressured to drop the appearance due to its “sensitive location”, writing that “after it was publicized, it was decided to cancel the ambassador’s appearance at the memorial.”
But a senior embassy official told Arutz Sheva that ambassador was forced to decline over a scheduling conflict, adding that he was needed for consultations in Washington and would not be in Israel on the day of the memorial.
"US Ambassador David Friedman is unable to attend the memorial for Ezra Schwartz, as he is engaged in consultations in Washington DC, November 28th. The Embassy will be sending a message of support."