Seven children killed in NY fire tragedy buried in Israel after father gives moving eulogy

JERUSALEM (AFP/REUTERS) - Seven Orthodox Jewish children from the same family who died in a house fire in New York's borough of Brooklyn at the weekend were buried in Jerusalem on Monday.

More than 1,000 people including Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat attended Monday's burial at the Givat Shaul cemetery for the children aged between five and 16.

The children died when their home was engulfed in flames on Saturday after a portable cooker malfunctioned.

New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, in comments quoted by The New York Times, called it "the largest tragedy by fire that this city has had in seven years".

US officials identified the victims as 16-year-old Eliane, 12-year-old David, 11-year-old Rivkah, 10-year-old Yeshua, eight-year-old Moshe, six-year-old Sara and five-year-old Yaakob, all from the Sassoon family.

Their grieving father, Gabriel Sassoon, spoke at a packed funeral chapel in New York where white curtains separated hundreds of men wearing black hats and yarmulkes from women in modest dress. His eulogy for the seven children was broadcast to an even bigger crowd outside.

Many of the mourners rocked back and forth in reverence as he spoke. "My children, they were so pure," said Sassoon, looking at the seven small, wooden coffins at the Shomrei Hadas Chapels.

He said that the only way he can survive the tragedy was "complete, utter and total surrender" to his religious beliefs.

The coffins were to be loaded into seven hearses headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport, then flown to Israel for burial. Only an eighth child, 15-year-old Siporah, and Sassoon's wife, Gayle Sassoon, 45, survived the blaze,

The children were buried in adjoining graves.

The tragedy is thought to have happened because the portable hotplate had been left on to keep food warm.

Because Orthodox Jewish customs proscribe the lighting of a fire or flame on the Sabbath, many families leave electrical appliances running to keep food warm over the day of rest instead of using stoves.