Abducted Israeli teens’ families remain hopeful
By Israel Hayom, Exclusive to JNS.org
As the days pass following the abduction of three Jewish teenagers near Hebron, the boys’ families are refusing to succumb to despair despite the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
Hamas terrorists kidnapped Gilad Shaar, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 19 and Naftali Frenkel, 16, Thursday night, June 12, while they were hitchhiking home from school, Israel has said. A massive manhunt has been underway since Friday, June 13 to rescue the teens.
“I know that our children are on their way home,” Iris Yifrach, Eyal’s mother, said Sunday. “I feel it. I am very serene because God is watching over our children.”
Hosting a religious gathering in her hometown of Elad, she said, “I look at this test that God has set before me, and I pray that He will rescue my son Eyal and Gilad and Naftali. This is a big test for all of us.”
The Shaar and Frenkel families thanked the people of Israel for the waves of support they have received.
“We are going through a difficult time in these last few days and I want to hug the people of Israel with a big embrace, an embrace of gratitude. An embrace of prayer,” said Bat-Galim Shaar, Gilad’s mother. “Gilad is strong, and I am sure that Naftali and Eyal are strong too. I want to ask the people of Israel to continue praying and being together. Continue giving that strength to our children, and with the help of God, with the power of this togetherness we will succeed.”
Earlier Sunday, Naftali Frenkel’s mother, Rachel, spoke to reporters, saying, “We are enveloped by a very warm circle of wonderful family and community. We know and feel that every effort is being made to bring the children home. We are grateful to every soldier in the field, every Shin Bet operative, the members of Knesset, the mothers and fathers of the soldiers in the battlefield, all the media personnel who are here, in the hot sun, to bring our story to the world. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
She added that her family is “well aware that the heavens are being torn open with prayer for our children, and we ask that you continue to pray. We are optimistic.”
Directly addressing her absent son, she said, “Naftali, your father and mother and siblings love you to no end. The nation of Israel is turning the world upside down in order to bring you home.”
Israeli Knesset members and ministers flocked to the families’ homes Sunday to offer their support. As he was leaving the Frenkel home Sunday, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said, “I came to support the family. What I am feeling is what everyone in Israel is feeling. The security forces are doing everything possible, and there is no better force anywhere in the world.”
Education Minister Shay Piron also visited the house, saying that “abducting 11th graders is morally the lowest terror organizations can go. I say this explicitly: This will not be worth it for anyone involved.”
Housing Minister Uri Ariel remarked that he had met “three extraordinary families.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, also visited the homes of the families Sunday, telling the parents that she was deeply moved by the strength of their spirit.
“On behalf of myself, my husband and the entire people of Israel, I want to give you strength and offer you my embrace,” she said. “We are all praying for the rapid and safe return of the three precious boys.”
Meanwhile, social services provided assistance to the immediate and extended families of the abducted teens.
“We arrive during the most intimate and difficult moments, offer our help, and leave the decision up to the family. In emergency situations like terror attacks we usually wait,” social worker Ariela Segal said.
Social workers visited the boys’ schools to help explain the situation to their classmates, said Segal.
‘Bring Back Our Boys’
A Facebook page created Friday following the kidnapping had garnered close to 80,000 “likes” by Monday.
The “Bring Back Our Boys” Facebook page, which aims to raise international awareness of the kidnapping, acquired more than 7,000 “likes” in its first four hours, and numerous viewers uploaded pictures of themselves holding signs reading “Bring Back Our Boys.”
The page is predicated on the international protest formula initiated by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, who created a page called “Bring Back Our Girls” to campaign for the release of nearly 300 Christian Nigerian girls kidnapped by the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram.
Viewers who arrive at the “Bring Back Our Boys” page are asked to share it with friends, with an emphasis on celebrities who can more effectively raise the page’s profile by adding pictures of themselves with the slogan.
Nitzi Yakov, Shlomi Diaz, Shlomo Cesana, Yael Barnovsky and Ilan Gattegno contributed reporting.
Praying for 3 boys whose plight hits close to home
By Marcy Oster
KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank (JTA) — Four days into the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens, I attended a group prayer session dedicated to their safe return.
Dozens of women gathered together to read responsively psalms seeking God’s mercy and intervention before the start of our morning Jewish studies classes. Our voices broke as we prayed for the boys’ safe return, though most of us do not know the families personally.
I returned home to find my teenage daughter, who is about the same age as two of the boys and should be studying for finals, preparing to perform special mitzvot to help bring them home. My teenage son returned home from school and immediately ran off to participate with the community’s youth in special prayers on behalf of the captives.
It is amazing how quickly the rhythm of our lives and our daily schedules has begun to revolve around the three teens, including one dual Israeli-American citizen, who were kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists while trying to get rides home from a junction in Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements located south of Jerusalem.
Since the abduction of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel, we are all checking news sources from the Web earlier and more often on our computers at work or on our phones. Even my younger children have been coming home from school and turning on the television news instead of their usual Nickelodeon. Not that some SpongeBob wouldn’t do us all some good.
I have not slept well since the boys were discovered kidnapped, and it is clear to me that none of my neighbors and friends here in Israel have either, if the times stamped on their Facebook posts are any indication. We ask each other for updates at the supermarket, at exercise class, at school pickup. We talk about our fears for the boys around the Shabbat table and at the “makolet,” or corner store. We curse their kidnappers as we pick up the kids from the pool and at the library.
We are living and breathing their captivity while also going about our daily lives. We simply must.
One of the day-to-day aspects of living here that has continued is that the residents of my community, located in the northern West Bank halfway between Qalqilya and Nablus, continue to “tremp,” or hitchhike, to get around.
Some in the Israeli media have been portraying tremping as a settler phenomenon in which those who hitchhike can show their ownership over all places in Israel and their brotherhood with all Israelis. But, in fact, for most of our kids, tremping is simply a means of getting from place to place without waiting hours and hours for buses that run infrequently and do not always arrive. And it occurs not only in the West Bank but in many areas of Israel’s periphery.
After a Shabbat of anxiety over the fate of the three boys, my oldest daughter left to return to her apartment in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, where she is performing her second year of national service. She tremped to the train station near Rosh Haayin in central Israel. My husband and I do not allow my other children to tremp. However, my oldest daughter is nearly 20, an adult who has to make her own decisions. She was not alone in deciding to continue to tremp.
For me the place where the boys were kidnapped also holds a significant resonance. That same daughter performed her first year of national service in several communities in Gush Etzion. Every Thursday night for a year she stood at the same junction where the three boys were abducted as she waited for a ride to get her home. It could have been her.
But right now, the kidnapped teens are the sons of all of us. We wait, we pray, we cry. We figuratively embrace their brave mothers who each have spoken to us through the media, their faces alight with hope and faith that their sons will be returned to them.
And we pray that our own children will be safe. I was on the phone Sunday night with my daughter in Ashkelon when she heard the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
I had called her because the Code Red alert app on my smartphone had sounded and I wanted to make sure that she had made it to the stairwell of her apartment building, which is not equipped with a bomb shelter. I put the app on my phone, which alarms in real time, out of an obsessive desire to know whether or not she is safe at all times. But it is clear that we can never be assured of that