Jewish Agency launches inquiry into program following fatal hotel shooting


(JTA) — The Jewish Agency opened an inquiry into its Oranim program after an American participant gunned down a hotel employee in Eilat.

"In response to the tragic incident in Eilat, the Chairperson of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky expressed his deep sorrow at the loss of life and has appointed a panel to examine the processes by which the American participant was accepted to the Oranim program in Eilat," a statement said last Friday.

The shooter, identified in media reports as William Hershkowitz, 24, of New York, was killed by Israeli soldiers shortly after the fatal shooting and holing up in a room at the Leonardo Club Hotel. Israel Radio reported that the soldiers rushed to the hotel last Friday morning after the tourist used the firearm of a hotel security guard to kill the  employee in the dining room.

Ynet identified the victim as Armando Abed, a 33-year-old sous chef from Mi’ilya in the Western Galilee.

The soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces anti-terrorist unit surrounded the room in which the man was holed up after the shooting, reports said. Police negotiated with him to surrender but the soldiers shot and killed him after he opened fire on police negotiators.

The man was in Israel as part of an exchange program for American young people and reportedly had been fired recently as a hotel employee.

"The Oranim program is one of 200 long term programs which are funded by Masa Israel, a joint project of the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel," the Jewish Agency said in its statement. "Since 2003, over 70,000 young Jews from around the world have participated in Masa programs, which include volunteer work, study and internships."

The shooter reportedly arrived in the morning hours to the hotel’s kitchen, where he began fighting with the employee whom he then killed. He reportedly snatched a firearm from a female security guard who arrived at the kitchen to break up the fight.

He escaped with the firearm and holed up in one of the rooms, police said, adding that he did not take any hostages.

The incident may have started over a financial dispute between the two dead men, according to Israel Radio.

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