28 May 2015 16, 16 & 19 Forever
On Friday, June 13, 2014, the IDF released the following statement:
“During the night, contact was lost with three teenagers in the Gush Etzion area. The security forces are acting to locate the missing youths and extensive searches are being conducted at this time in the area.”
President Shimon Peres stated: “Our soldiers are operating without respite to find the three boys… The strength of our society will overcome the terrorists. Today the whole nation is united. The families are a symbol of the strength of the Israeli spirit, they are a source of inspiration – we will pray with them for the safe return of their sons, our boys.”
And then, on June 30, 2014, the search was over…the boys had been found…Blessed is the Judge of Truth.
Eyal Yifrah, 19, was the eldest of seven siblings. His family describes him as an energetic, sports-loving boy. He was a youth counselor, who loved to travel and play tennis. While Gilad Shalit was in captivity, Eyal made sure to send Facebook message to raise awareness to the fact that Gilad had not seen his parents for five years.
Eyal’s father eulogized his son: “Eyal, you are a saint. 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.'”
Naftali Frenkel, 16, was a student at the Mekor Hayim yeshiva in Kfar Etzion.
Naftali was the second of seven children. He loved to play basketball and played the guitar. Naftali was described as a responsible and poised young boy, a gifted student, with a talent for school and academia. Naftali was on his way home from school when he was kidnapped.
His mother, Rachel, said in her eulogy to her son: “Rest in peace, my child. We will learn to sing without you. We will always hear your voice in our hearts.”
Gilad Sha’er, 16, was a student at the Mekor Hayim yeshiva in Kfar Etzion.
Gilad loved to read, listen to music, and watch movies.
Ezra Sha’er, Gilad’s grandfather said: “He was a good kid, a gifted child – always smiling, even as a baby. He was a boy who loved to learn, to do everything for the community and for society…He loved his country; he took a lot of trips around Israel. And, today he is gone,” he added.
Speaking of his son’s final phone call to the police (placed after the abduction), Ofir Sha’er said: “From the moment I heard your brave whisper, I heard a great voice and I stood taller. What resourcefulness, bravery and strength of someone not yet 17.”
The enemy is relentless in their quest to annihilate us: yesterday, today, and perhaps even tomorrow. They have one desire – to tear the Jew from his family, his home, and his land. They mistakenly believe that they will one day succeed. They forget that many who were of like mind have preceded them, and not one succeeded… Each empire, each ruler, each enemy has come and gone… we have not.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l writes that “Rome realized (after the churban) that even though they had destroyed the Beis Ha’Mikdash, they had not destroyed the Jewish community. The Jewish community was as loyal to G-d after the churban as it was during the time the BHM”K was standing. Rome realized (later) that the strength of the Jew is not dependent upon the BHM”K; that Torah is the cohesive force that unites the Jews and helps them carry on even under the worst of circumstances. The observance of Jewish law is what unites them” (The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways, p.254).
One year later…
“I’m constantly talking to Gilad,” a teary-eyed Bat-Galim Sha’ar said. “I ask him to take care of us. And from God, who keeps me safe, to keep him safe and have it be good for him up there.”
Occasionally Iris Yifrah, Eyal’s mother, still sends WhatsApp messages to her son’s cell phone – one year after he was kidnapped. “I always message him, keep him up to date,” she stated. “I have a one-way WhatsApp conversation with him. The ‘was last seen’ line will always say June 12, 2014, but there are always two check marks indicating that my message was received.”
“Naftali is in my prayers,” Rachel Frankel, his mother, said. “During the day, I can’t move on until I see a strong vision of his face.”
May the Torah unite us, may our fortitude and strength as a nation console us, and may the Almighty redeem us – from our pain and tears and from our longing and yearning, as we hope and pray for a better day.
For the day when “He will swallow up death forever; and Hashem will wipe away tears from upon all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for Hashem has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).
May it be soon and in our time, amen v’amen.