(JTA) – As the funeral began for 38-year-old Dafna Meir, the mother of six who was stabbed to death in her home on Sunday in the West Bank Settlement of Otniel, Israeli forces continued to search for the Palestinian who murdered her in the presence of her three children.
Meir, a nurse, mother of four children and foster mother to two, was laid to rest on Monday morning at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem. Hundreds attended her funeral, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
According to Israeli media reports, Meir died while attempting to fight off her attacker and prevent him from hurting her three children, who were home when he entered the house. He fled after killing Meir, and did not attempt to stab any of her children.
Israeli media reported that Meir’s 17-year-old daughter, Ranana, witnessed her mother’s stabbing and described the assailant to Israeli authorities. In her eulogy at her mother’s funeral on Monday, Ranana called her mother her best friend. “You left us with an enormous vacuum,” she said. “You won’t come with me to my wedding, to the army, to the delivery room. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you during the hardest moments.”
According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meir’s biological children ranged in ages from 11 to 14, and her two foster children were four- and six-year-old boys. Meir herself was adopted at the age of 13. She worked as a nurse at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Security forces are still searching for Meir’s attacker. According to Israeli media reports, dozens of Palestinians were detained in overnight sweeps throughout the West Bank.
The suspect’s escape was captured by security footage, but investigators have so far been unable to determine how he entered the settlement. Israeli media reports circulated theories that the suspect was employed as a construction worker in the settlement, and thus entered through the front gate. On Monday the IDF ordered all Palestinian workers employed in the Gush Etzion bloc to leave. Gush Etzion is home to the settlements of Otniel and Tekoa, where another stabbing attack occurred on Monday morning.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Monday condemning Meir’s murder and vowing swift punishment.
”The abhorrent terrorist who murdered Dafna Meir, who – along with her husband – raised six children, will be caught. I would like to send my condolences to Natan and the children, to the entire family. The entire Jewish people grieves with you. I spoke last night with Hebron Hills Regional Council Chairman Yohai Damari and I asked him to tell the residents to be strong. I told him that we would strengthen the communities. Whoever tries to harm us, we will bring him to justice. In the end he will be found and he will pay the full price.”