JERUSALEM, Israel -- Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin marked the opening of the school year in Itamar on Wednesday, the town in Samaria where five members of the Fogel family were slain last March.
Udi and Ruth Fogel and their children -- Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month-old Hadas -- were stabbed to death on March 11 by two youth from the Arab village of Awarta. Twelve-year-old Tamar promised to be a mother to her two surviving brothers, Roei, 6, and Yishai, 2.
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika, who hosted the event, accompanied Rivlin to the Fogel's home and the Hesder Yeshiva study hall where the late Rabbi Fogel taught, Shomron Liason Office Executive Director David Ha'ivri reported.
Rivlin said he chose to open the school year in Itamar out of his "identification with and salutation of the people."
"I arrived from Jerusalem on a road that both Israelis and Palestinians travel on," Rivlin said.
"Peace will be achieved here only when everyone will really want to live together," he said.
"Itamar is not an obstacle to peace," Rivilin said, adding that peace "will be achieved if the Palestinians truly desire peace."
Rivlin noted that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had suggested linking Itamar and the other communities in the area with those in the Jordan Valley to provide "territorial continuity" and "strategic depth."
"I believe with perfect faith -- and I have never changed my views -- that all the land of Israel is ours," Rivlin said.
Mesika said he hoped the "government will manage to give these wonderful children classrooms fit to study in -- just like any children anywhere in Israel."
"We expect the Israeli government to cease preventing construction of classrooms and schools in Judea and Samaria and to enable each boy and girl to study under the same conditions as any other child in the country," Mesika said.
Rivlin told first graders at the Talmud Torah elementary school, "You are quick to build up the land of our forefathers who built Jerusalem."
"There is nothing standing in the way of whoever wants to build up the land," he added, wishing the children success in the new school year.