“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1–3)
The entire nation of Israel remains brokenhearted and united in grief with the devastated families of the three kidnapped Israeli boys, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, whose bodies were found Monday afternoon.
Eighteen days after they were abducted and killed, the teens were discovered at about 5 p.m., bound and partially buried in an open field less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where they had been abducted. Israeli security forces had been conducting extensive searches in the area, which had been sealed off and declared a closed military zone.
Ahead of a massive, joint funeral for the three murdered youths, Bat-Galim Shaar eulogized her son Gilad on Monday during a ceremony in their hometown of Talmon.
“I sit in your room and I can’t accept that our worst nightmare came true,” she said.
Ofir Shaar, Gilad’s father, said dejectedly, “I sit in your room, I look at your bar mitzvah photo album, and refuse to digest it.”
“God’s ways are mysterious, and I don’t know why you have left us so young,” Avi Frenkel, Naftali’s father, said at his son’s service at Kibbutz Shaalvim. “But your death has led this entire nation forward, and there is some comfort.”
Uri Yifrach spoke to Eyal in eulogy, saying, “You had a special kind of love for any man … What else do you need? You told me many times, ‘if someone asks me for something, I can’t refuse.’”
He continued, “Your siblings want you near them, for you to come and give them a big hug. For you to hug mom. Mom said that you are now right by God’s side. She asked you to whisper to God, ask Him to give her strength, to give all of us strength. It’ll be hard without you. We need strength.”
Yifrach said to the murderers, “You are wrongdoers, the nation of Israel promises that your day will come. … We are humanitarians, we have love and it will triumph. We will not break. We will not give up. We’re here, and you can’t change that. We’re a strong nation.” (Ynet)
In an outpouring of national grief on Tuesday, tens of thousands of Israelis from all walks of life gathered to bid farewell to the murdered victims of last month’s terrorist abduction.
They were buried side by side in central Israel in a cemetery that is within a 15 km radius of their homes.
Their shroud-draped bodies, covered in Israeli flags, were transported to the cemetery after separate funerals in each boy’s hometown of Nof Ayalon, Talmon and Elad.
“We prayed for a miracle, unfortunately a tragedy occurred,” President Shimon Peres said at the ceremony.
“Gilad, Naftali, Eyal,” Peres said. “Wonderful boys, sons of the whole nation. Rest in peace. We will bow our heads but our spirit will not break. Dear families, I know your suffering and I also know how you dealt with [it]; you turned your grief into a source of hope for the whole nation. May you find comfort in the building of Zion and Jerusalem. May you know no more grief. May their memories be blessed for eternity.” (Jwire)
Netanyahu also spoke at the funeral, saying, “In the last 18 days the figures of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were carved on our hearts. We were charmed by the magic of their smile, their kindness, their joy of youth. Today became a day of national mourning,” Netanyahu said.
“The moral chasm that separates us from our enemies is deep and wide,” the Prime Minister said. “They revere death and we life. They revere cruelty and we, pity. This is the secret of our strength, it is also the base of our unification.”
“Life has its own strength, like a river that drags us forward, and gives us hope,” concluded Netanyahu. “An entire nation cries and embraces you. … they will be a source of comfort.”
To the end, Israel held hope against hope that the teens would be found, and on Sunday, the day before the bodies were found northwest of the city of Hebron in Judea, as many as 100,000 gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to dance, sing, pray and call for the release of the abducted youth.
Avi Frenkel had high praise for the event and spoke of the national “unity of fate and a very basic feeling of mutuality. Many people wanted to come here and we barely have time to see them, we barely have time for ourselves, and it’s an opportunity for us to do something with everybody.” (Ynet)
It is believed that the boys were shot to death close to the time of their kidnapping, perhaps in a panic after Gilad managed to call the police hotline in a desperate plea for help, saying quietly in Hebrew, “I’ve been kidnapped.”
The two-minute call that was finally broadcast on Tuesday in Israel was initially considered a prank by police. On the recording, one of his captors can be heard saying in Hebrew, “Head down!” In Arabic, he orders him to hand over the phone. After that, there are noises that sound like gunshots and cries of pain.
The Shin Bet (Israeli Internal Security) had found a bullet casing, blood, tefillin (phylacteries), and other forensic evidence in a burnt, abandoned Hyundai close to the time of the kidnapping that pointed to the boys’ death, but there was still hope that they might be found alive. (JPost)
Several police officers were dismissed in the wake of a probe that found severe misconduct in the handling of the emergency hotline center on the night three teens were kidnapped.