Wednesday, July 2, 2014

יהי זכרם ברוך- May their memories be a blessing

To be living in Israel during the tragedy of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped and murdered, is indescribable.  Feelings of frustration, sadness, confusion, and guilt overcome me. The three Israeli teenagers- Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Sha'er,16, and Naftlai Frankel, 16-were kidnapped on June 12th while hitchhiking home and were found dead on Monday in the West Bank.

For the past few weeks in Israel, the kidnapping has been on everyone's mind and in their hearts. There has been an unwavering spirit in Israel...whether it was from the IDF's Operation Brother's Keeper, the thousands of Jews who prayed at the Western Wall for the boys return, or individual acts of awareness for the cause.

Just one night before the tragic news of the boys' death, there was an event in Tel Aviv to bring the Israeli nation together. This was a benefit concert, sponsored by OneFamily, where thousands of Jews rallied in solidarity to show their support. There was an outpouring of hope and spirit at the concert, but less than 24 hours later, the fatal news was released. I was walking on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem, when I first heard the news playing on a television screen outside a restaurant. People crowded around the screen to hear the news that a search team found the three teenagers dead in a ditch. What followed was a solemn atmosphere and mourning throughout all of Israel. 

That night, a group of 50 of us in my Onward Israel program came together outside of the hostel for prayers and songs. We gathered around to make a big circle and in the center of the circle we lit three candles on behalf of the three boys. By sharing our thoughts and hugs, we comforted one another and grew closer. This intimate gathering preceded a grand ceremony for the boys' joint burial service in the city of Modiin.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews all across Israel traveled hours to attend the funeral.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the burial service, giving their dearest condolences and powerful speeches. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu yesterday said, “[The teens] were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals. In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families — to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters — our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.”

Personally as an American Jew, I identify greatly with my religion and my people of Israel during this momentous time. At the funeral, I felt a fervent sense of purpose and meaning, seeing thousands of Jews united for a common cause.  I've never felt so proud to be a Jew and to be a part of a Jewish state that is strong against all odds. My prayers go out to the families of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftlali.

יהי זכרם ברוך-  May their memories be a blessing

A massive crowd marching toward the funeral to pay their respects to Eyal, Gilad, and Naftlali.

-Camille Pilar Phillips

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