jerusalem | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in a televised address that Israel will capture the murderers of three Israeli teens no matter where they hide.
“Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences. We will neither rest nor slacken until we reach the last of them, and it does not matter where they will try to hide. We will reach them all even if it takes time,” Netanyahu said Monday evening following the funerals of the three teens and before entering a security Cabinet meeting to determine how to respond to their murders, the second meeting in two nights.
“The entire nation supports the families and the entire nation is united in our struggle against murderous terrorism. We are fighting it decisively and with determination,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu also said that the military will strike against Hamas in the West Bank and in Gaza.
“Anyone who thinks that they can achieve anything by using terrorism against us will continue to be mistaken and will achieve the opposite results,” Netanyahu asserted. “Hamas is responsible. Hamas will pay and Hamas will continue to pay.”
Brother’s Keeper, the search operation that began with the abduction of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, continues despite the discovery of their bodies.
Israeli security forces have detained 419 of what it has identified as terror operatives, of which 335 are affiliated with Hamas, including 12 of its leaders. Some 56 Palestinians released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011 are among those who have been arrested.
At teens’ funeral, personal grief and national solidarity merge
modiin, israel | They were their mothers’ sons. They were all of our sons. They were dear boys. They were martyrs for Israel. They were funny, clever, creative. They are the messengers of the Jewish people in heaven.
The joint funeral Tuesday of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach provided a capstone to a harrowing ordeal that over 18 days united Israelis in hope and prayer. When the teens were found dead Monday night, their bodies lying half exposed in a field near Hebron, the national outpouring became one of grief and despair.
It is simultaneously a national tragedy for Israel and a personal one for the boys’ families. And at the funeral and the memorials preceding it, the national and personal melded together.
The country shared in the families’ tragedy. The families became national heroes.
“We prayed, each of us alone and all of us together, for a miracle,” said Israeli President Shimon Peres in his eulogy. “We prayed that we would see them return in peace to the families, to their homes and to us all. Sadly we were hit by the tragedy of their murder and a deep grief enveloped our people.”
When news of the boys’ death hit Monday night, Israelis looked lost, unsure how to proceed after more than two apprehensive weeks since the teens were kidnapped on June 12 while hitchhiking in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion.
At Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square – the site just a day before of a packed, loud concert in solidarity with the boys’ families – a much more subdued vigil coalesced. A few men sat on the floor with guitars singing as several others lit candles that spelled out the boys’ names. Soon the crowd swelled to hundreds, all singing songs of mourning and comfort.
The next day, outside the synagogue in the rural central Israeli town of Shaalvim, a crowd of hundreds milled in an open field. Five boys sat on the ground reading from prayer books. Some people spoke in hushed tones. Most stayed silent, exhausted from the heat, beaten by the tragedy. They were the neighbors, the friends, the family of Naftali Fraenkel.
Shaalvim resident Debbie Schuval noted the emotions and hope that had been invested in the teens returning home.
“There was almost this energy of mission, this energy that was buzzing about,” she said. “By last night the energy just dissolved and it was just quiet.”
A microphone stood underneath a bare frame meant for a wedding canopy, against the backdrop of a large Israeli flag. Speaker after speaker – the village rabbi, Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron, Fraenkel’s grandfathers and parents – told the largely religious Zionist crowd about the 16-year-old’s tenderness and the state’s resilience.
Some mixed memories of the boy with calls for a forceful strike against Hamas, which Israel blames for the murders, or for increased Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
When Naftali’s mother ascended the podium, the subdued crowd broke into tears. Since the boys went missing, Rachel Fraenkel had become an increasingly fierce public advocate for them in international forums, speaking to a range of media and appearing at the United Nations. On Tuesday, though, her words were directed to the Israeli people and to her son.
“From the very first day, we said to ourselves that even if it ends badly, God gave us an abundance of blessings,” she said. “Our prayers were never for naught.”
After the memorial service, the crowd boarded a fleet of buses bound for the nearby cemetery where the boys would be buried in a valley near this central Israeli city. Soon they joined a sea of people – like them, overwhelmingly religious Zionists – all streaming toward the graves.
People climbed over rocks, through ditches and along dirt paths, all to squeeze in among the thousands of people who had gathered to put the boys to rest.
Old and young squeezed next to each other. Paramedics holding stretchers pushed through to treat those who had fainted in the heat. One group would begin to sing a somber Jewish song, only to be drowned out by another group across the cemetery that had chosen a different tune.
The gathering was, perhaps, the last manifestation of how this tragedy has captivated Israel, dominating its news and bringing a sense of unity to the country that had long felt absent. And the speeches at the cemetery focused on the kidnapping’s national aspect.
“A whole nation stood together and got a reminder of who we are, why we are here and, no less, what great strengths are found within us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, addressing the victims’ families. “The light shining from you stood out all the more against the horrible darkness of those who seek our souls.”
Throughout the crisis, there was talk of national unity, of terrorism, of politics and of sacrifice. But when Rachel Fraenkel spoke outside the synagogue in Shaalvim, remembering how much Naftali loved music, it was clear that at its core, this was a tragedy of three families who had lost their boys.
“Rest in peace, dear son,” Fraenkel ended her eulogy. “We’ll learn to sing without you.”
World Jewish communities rallying around memory of murdered teens
paris | Jewish communities across Europe and in South America are holding memorial gatherings for the three murdered Israeli teens.
In France, the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish communities and organizations is planning a silent vigil for Thursday near the Israeli Embassy in Paris to remember Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.
“A structure will be erected where those who are saddened and shocked by the killings may light candles and write condolences for the families,” read the CRIF statement, which was issued jointly with the Consistoire, the organ of French Jewry responsible for religious services. The book of condolences will be given to the Israeli Embassy and sent to the families, CRIF said.
In Marseille, home to France’s second largest Jewish community, approximately 100 Jews met at the city’s largest synagogue for special prayers for the three teens on Monday, hours after their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave north of Hebron. A similar gathering took place in the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire in Paris.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the murders, which Israeli investigators believe happened on June 12 shortly after the three teens were abducted in the Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc located south of Jerusalem. The bodies were found Monday in a field near the West Bank city of Hebron.
The Jewish Community of Madrid invited members to a demonstration Tuesday evening in front of the Israeli Embassy to “express their pain over killings and demand the eradication of the Hamas terrorist group,” the community wrote in a statement.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said it will convene a vigil outside the Israeli Embassy in London on Wednesday to mourn “the tragic and senseless murder of three teenagers.”
In Argentina and Brazil, Jewish communities also announced vigils to be held Tuesday in Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo. The Argentine Jewish group DAIA is organizing its rally opposite the AMIA building, the site of a 1994 terrorist bombing that killed 85 and injured hundreds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the murders a “detestable act.”
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said in a statement Monday that the EU condemned the killings of the teens in “the strongest terms.”
“We express our sincere condolences to their families and friends and share their grief,” she said, while also calling “for restraint of all parties concerned in order not to further aggravate the fragile situation on the ground.”
U.S. Jewish communities memorializing Israeli teens
Jewish communities across the United States have responded to the murder of three Israeli teens with vigils and memorial services.
The announcement that Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach had been found dead Monday of gunshot wounds in a field near Hebron prompted a memorial service that evening outside Cleveland that drew a reported overflow crowd of 750, according to the Cleveland Jewish News. The event was organized by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
In New York City, several hundred people gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate and walked to the Isaiah Wall across from the United Nations complex.
“Our hearts are broken. Our hearts are shattered. And all of the United Nations must speak out,” Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale told the crowd, according to Reuters. “The murder of a person is the murder of a person. But the murder of a child is the murder of the world.”
In Los Angeles, “dozens” of people had gathered in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Pico-Robertson, where they sang, hugged and held Israeli flags, NBC4 television reported.
A number of Jewish communities are holding memorials to honor the teens, who had been missing since June 12.
The federations of Philadelphia, Hartford, Portland and Los Angeles are holding memorials on Tuesday evening, while Boston, Chicago, New Orleans and San Antonio have scheduled memorials for Wednesday.
U.N. Security Council condemns murders of Israeli teens
washington | The U.N. Security Council adopted a statement condemning and expressing “profound outrage” at the murder of three Israeli teenagers.
“The members of the Security Council expressed their profound outrage at and condemned in the strongest terms the killing of three teenagers, whose bodies were discovered near the city of Hebron on 30 June,” said the statement.
Such statements are adopted by consensus through email and phone call exchanges among the 15 members of the council.
The statement extended the condolences of the members to “the families of the victims of this heinous act and to the people and Governments of Israel and the United States.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to bring to justice the murderers of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, whose bodies were found Sunday, two weeks after their kidnapping. He has blamed the Hamas terrorist group for the killings. Fraenkel was a dual U.S. citizen.
“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these acts to justice and encouraged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together to do so,” said the statement, which a source said was initiated by Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“They reiterated the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection and urged all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law,” the statement said. “They also urged all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”