by: Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 13 June 2018 | It is a day that is etched into the memory of all of Israel. Yesterday four years ago on June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were making their way home from school for Shabbat. They never arrived at their destination. Eyal Yifrach (19), Gilad Shaar (16) and Naftali Fraenkel (16) were kidnapped and murdered.
News of the boys’ abduction hit the Jewish state like a tidal wave, touching the very heart of the nation. Hoping the boys were still alive, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sprang into action, launching Operation Brother’s Keeper in a bid to find the boys and return them home safely. For almost three weeks, thousands of soldiers combed the length and breadth of Judea and Samaria, following leads and gathering intelligence.
Those involved in the search did not bear the burden alone. In a spectacular display of compassion, community and care, the people of Israel united as one. These boys were everyone’s boys, everyone’s brothers and sons. Israel adopted Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel as their own. As such, the Jewish nation prayed, hoped and despaired alongside the teens’ parents and siblings.
Within hours of the abduction, the #BringBackOurBoys online campaign exploded across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The campaign went viral fast and garnered millions of hits both in Israel and across the world.
Three days after the abduction, some 30,000 people flocked to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem, to unite in prayer for the safe return of “our boys.” Thousands more joined similar gatherings held elsewhere in the nation.
Addressing the sea of grief-stricken faces who had come to cry out as a community, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau said, “The entire nation came to the Western Wall tonight, as one person with one heart, united in prayer for the safety of the hostages; may they soon return to their families and their nation.”
Tragically, that safe return was not to be.
After 18 days of ceaseless searching, praying and hoping, the bodies of Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel were discovered buried in a shallow grave in a field outside Hebron.
Official reports confirmed that the boys were murdered shortly after being abducted by two Hamas operatives with an extensive history of terrorist activity.
The heart-wrenching news broke on 30 June 2014, as darkness fell over the Jewish state. Once again, the people of Israel responded with compassion, community and care to weather the storm together. In the days following the abduction, all of Israel had prayed, hoped and despaired alongside the boys’ parents and siblings. Now that the boys had been found murdered, the Jewish state would mourn together as a family.
Tens of thousands came to pay their respects as Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel were buried side-by-side. Speaking at their funeral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Today has spontaneously become a national day of mourning.”
The boys’ abduction and murder plunged their families into a nightmare beyond imagination. A year after the tragedy, their parents addressed the people of Israel in a The Times of Israel article, “It is our eternal joint prayer that they be remembered not simply as victims of a brutal tragedy but also as three “normal” boys who succeeded in bringing a nation together. May the memories of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali inspire us all to really live as one people with one heart.”
Posted on June 13, 2018
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 13 June 2018)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
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