“And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.” (Numbers 20:29)
The sad news that the bodies of missing teenagers Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah were found Monday drew a heartbroken nation together in mourning and generated words of sympathy from around the world.
Israeli Prime Minister opened an emergency Security Cabinet meeting late Monday night with the following statement: “With heavy grief, this evening we found three bodies. All signs indicate that they are the bodies of our three abducted youths – Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel.”
“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals. On behalf of the entire Jewish People, I would like to tell the dear families – the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and brothers and sisters – we are deeply saddened, the entire nation weeps with you. We will give the boys a proper burial,” he promised.
Quoting Hebrew poet Haim Nahman Bialik, he went on to say, “’Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.’ Neither has vengeance for the blood of three pure youths, who were on their way home to meet their parents, who will not see them anymore. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memories of the three boys be blessed.”
Hamas continues to deny responsibility for the kidnappings, though it praised them and has been known to encourage its followers to kidnap Israelis. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Netanyahu from Gaza that any widespread offensive into the territory would have severe repercussions.
“Netanyahu should know that threats don’t scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him,” he said.
Outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres issued a statement of his own. “All of Israel bows its head today. For 18 days we hoped and prayed with one voice that we would find the boys safe and well. With this bitter news, all of Israel mourns their deaths. Along with our deep sense of loss, we remain committed to bringing the terrorists to justice. Our resolve in the fight against terror will only strengthen, and we will ensure that murderous terrorism of this sort will not dare to rear its head again.”
“At this difficult time my thoughts and prayers are with the family. They educated their children with dedication and embedded within them a love of their country,” he added.
An outpouring of grief and support came from across Israel’s political spectrum, with statements from party leaders right, left and center. Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On offered her party’s condolences, saying, “The boys’ kidnapping and murder is a war crime that must be punished with the full severity of the law. Nevertheless, precisely at this moment, it’s vital to distinguish between those responsible for this wicked act and between the Palestinians who denounced it, first and foremost the president of the Palestinian Authority.”
Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry of Yesh Atid again urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to immediately dissociate himself from the murderous terrorist organization Hamas, which perpetrated this abominable crime.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the news, saying, “The murder of children is unforgivable. Our hearts are with the families right now. Now is the time for actions; not talk.”
Fellow Jewish Home party member, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, said “In a war…one must strike at terrorists mercilessly on the one hand and respond with an appropriate Zionist response on the other.” Last month, Ariel defined “an appropriate Zionist response” as building Jewish homes.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) called for an all-out military assault aimed at the total destruction of Hamas. “This tragic ending must also be the ending of Hamas! The nation is strong and ready to absorb [attacks] for the sake of a mortal blow against Hamas…We have to destroy the homes of Hamas activists, wipe out their arsenals everywhere, and stop the flow of money that directly or indirectly keeps terror alive… make the entire Palestinian leadership pay a heavy price.”
As 200 people spontaneously gathered in Jerusalem’s Zion Square to mourn the three murdered boys, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau said, “The Jewish people around the world are shaken by the despicable murder. The teenagers that were martyred for their Jewishness join a long chain of our people’s holy and pure who were murdered throughout the painful history of the Jewish people.”
Prayer for the Boys All Over Israel
And Jewish voices have been heard from around the world. AIPAC issued a statement saying it “stands with the people of Israel at this moment of sorrow and loss. We express our deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the innocent teenage boys who were murdered by terrorists with no respect for human life. Americans and Israelis understand that terrorist barbarism cannot be tolerated. We have once again witnessed that Hamas is an enemy of peace, reconciliation and fundamental human decency. For the sake of peace, all people of goodwill should distance themselves from this terrorist body. Israel is not alone at this terrible time of mourning. America and all civilized people share Israel’s loss and identify with her determination to defend her people. Terror must be given no quarter.”
J-Street issued a statement of its own, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the three boys and with the people of Israel at this moment of profound sadness. Tonight, we join them in the mourners’ call that ‘He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel.’”
Robert G. Sugarman, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on the world to voice its condemnation: “We are horrified and devastated by the reports, now confirmed, that the three boys Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, kidnapped on June 12th, have been found dead in the Hebron area…It is time that the world stand in unity against those who advocate and execute, as well as justify, the murder of innocent young people who are brutally butchered in Israel or anywhere. It cannot be met by indifference or pro-forma expressions of sympathy. For too long the threats against Israel, including missiles and terrorism, have elicited limited responses, with the roles of victims and perpetrators inverted. It must stop.”
Among the world leaders who expressed their horror, US President Barack Obama had this to say: “I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel – who held Israeli and American citizenship. As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth. From the outset, I have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and I encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort. As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States.”
He did call on both sides, however, to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki urged “continued security cooperation” between the Israelis and Palestinians, despite “the tragedy and the enormous pain on the ground as a result.”
Likewise, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I am deeply saddened by the news that the bodies of the three Israeli boys kidnapped on 12 June have been found this evening. This was an appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers. Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible. Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with the families of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. No parent should have ever to suffer such heartache or grief.”
UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon called the kidnappings and murders a “heinous crime”, but also urged the sides to “refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”
Pope Francis, through Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi, shared in the families’ “unspeakable pain.” The Pope visited the region back in May.
Even the PA offered its sympathies to a grieving nation. Abdallah Abdallah, an Abbas advisor, said, “We want peace to be created in this part of the world so no mother or no family will be bereaved for the loss of their beloved ones, Palestinian or Israeli.”