I am dismayed to report that no further progress in finding the three kidnapped teenagers, despite appeals being made in the international media and institutions like the UN, and Jewish communities around the world, and despite the IDF’s intensive operations and massive arrests of Hamas terrorists in and around Judea and Samaria.
Last night a huge rally in support of the families was held at Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv, attended by at least 75,000 people. The three mothers are awesome in their dignity and calmness in the face of such a terrible situation and each of them in turn addressed the crowd:
“We appreciate the head of the Palestinian Authority and the Mayor of Hebron who both transcended this conflict and called for the immediate liberation of the boys,” said Rachel Frenkel, mother of Naftali.
“This is an assembly of love, of unity,” she continued. “Somewhere out there, there are three teenagers who know there is no way we let go, there’s no chance someone gives up (on them). The love we feel here – gives them strength there.”
Frenkel spoke of the tour the families went on in Hebron earlier Sunday, “we saw soldiers with red eyes who haven’t been home in a long time. We went to thank them, and they said, ‘why are you thanking me? This is what we joined the army for.'”
Iris, Eyal Yifrach’s mother, spoke to her son from the stage at Rabin Square: “The people of Israel are giving you love back, the entire nation came together, they’re all worried about you. We want you back already, waiting to embrace you with warmth.”
Gil-Ad’s mother, Bat Galim Shaer, also spoke to her son: “There’s an entire nation here with us that is waiting for you, wishing your safe return home. People in Israel and all over the world have come together for your return and when you come back you’ll find that our family has expanded greatly – you have brothers and sisters all over Israel and the world.”
Shaer said the unity reminded her of the same unity that was in Israel when an Air France plane with 248 passengers aboard was hijacked, and Israel went on Operation Entebbe to free them.
“Yesterday it was Entebbe, today it’s Gush Etzion. The places change, but the togetherness remains. We are brothers, and brothers don’t rest until their little brother returns to them,” she added, praying that all IDF soldiers searching for the boys return home safely.
“We’re not here for a situation assessment or for investigations. We’re here to pray in all languages and in the name of all religions,” President-elect Reuven Rivlin said. “Our prayer tonight is not just Jewish or Israel, we are saying a prayer for mankind, it is a prayer of a mother about her son, of a father about his child.
“This is the prayer of the angel who dares stand up even to God and cry out – do not lay a hand on the boy! We stand here tonight together and call to anyone who has a human heart beating in him – do not lay your hands on the boys,” Rivlin went on to say.
“The kidnapping of boys and teens cannot be considered an act of bravery in any time, place, religion or language. Not just here in Israel, but in Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Nigeria,” he added.
Participants at the rally wore T-Shirts that said “Together, Until Your Return” and waved signs saying “Partners in Prayer,” “Children will return to their own land,” “Supporting the families.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke of the rally at his speech at the INSS think tank: “Not far from here there’s a support rally for the kidnapped teens. I instructed the chief of staff and the head of the Shin Bet to not spare any effort to bring the boys back and I hope we succeed in our mission.
“This incident is a part of a much wider phenomenon, a historic change that will have consequences for the entire region. The Sykes-Picot agreement has been upheld throughout the years, but when regimes started to crumble, all of the conquered demons come out. The hope that liberal movements take over in Arab states has disappeared. We’re looking at many years of instability and struggles, but in the long term, extreme Islam will fall because it won’t allows for individual liberties.”
Laura Ben-David has written a beautiful account of the rally at the Times of Israel which is well worth a read.
It is unbelievable how personal this horrible kidnapping is for all of us. My son and his friends took the #BringBackOurBoys concept to the next level. Their sign said ‘Bring Back Our Brothers.’ That says it all. These boys are family. To us in Gush Etzion. To us in Israel. To so many of us all over the world.
Some people asked, ‘But what good will a rally like this do? How will it help?’ They clearly missed the point. The rally did everything it was supposed to do: embrace the families with massive amounts of love to help them through the nightmare they have been forced into over two weeks ago.
Throughout the event a constant stream of photos of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad were projected on massive screens. As if we hadn’t already thoroughly internalized deep feelings for the boys into our hearts, now we watched them grow from toddlers to teenagers right before our eyes. Our bond was sealed.
The rally was titled, ‘Singing Together For Their Return’ and indeed there was an incredible lineup of singers who sang songs of hope, prayer and salvation. It was beautiful. And full of love. There was so much love!! And tears. And emotions. And hope…
Israelis have a reputation for always needing to be in other people’s business. This can be maddening and some may see this as a flaw; and perhaps it is. But I assure you, it is also an incredible, unifying strength. A strength that pulled together a beautiful rally, 75,000 people strong with very little time to prepare.
Finally, as the crowd was preparing to disperse, they sang Hatikva. Everyone stopped, stood and faced forward and sang with all of their heart. It was just one of many moments that evening that moved me to tears…
Investing energy in anger about the boys’ kidnapping, focusing on fear for them and other negative thoughts is not constructive in terms of what we are all seeking. The nature of the energy that is put out into the world does make a difference. And what is needed now – in addition, of course, to prayers! – is positive energy. Send the boys feelings of love. Picture them safe. Mentally hug them. Reassure them.
This truly helps, my friends. Spread the word.
Arlene also writes about the increasing rocket fire, the government’s weakness in responding to it, and the great worry that Abbas will come out of the rockets-and-kidnapping crises as Israel’s great hero, in which case Israel will be pressurised (or feel itself obligated) to make yet more concessions to this terrorist in a suit.
But at this moment, let us not think about all that. Let us stay positive and let us keep praying for the return of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali.
Please pray for the safe return of:
Yakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah יעקב נפתל בן רחל דבורה
Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim גלעד מיכאל בן בת-גלים
Eyal ben Iris Teshura אייל בן איריס תשורה