In the weeks since their disappearance while hitchhiking home from their West Bank yeshiva, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel became household names for many. For those who held their photos aloft at vigils, taped their pictures to their front doors, or in whose honor three yellow ribbons were tied around a front-yard tree, they became familiar faces, deeply embedded in our hearts. Here and in Israel, they became “our boys.”
The news on Monday that the three teens were found dead in shallow graves north of Hebron does not loosen those bonds. We all feel the grief and the loss as extended family.
It is expected that this tragic waste of sacred human life will serve to enflame relations between Israel and the Palestinians at a time when conciliation and cooperation are needed. If that was the killers’ objective, they succeeded. But the consequences and reactions to these horrific crimes won’t be pretty. Israel has an obligation to protect her citizenry whether they live in the Golan, the Negev, central Israel or the West Bank. And the tension, distrust and hatred that will flow from these horrific crimes is inevitable.
As we go to press, the facts of what happened are still coming in. But last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the abduction, and after massive searches of the West Bank during which dozens of Hamas operatives were arrested, two men tied to Hamas were named as prime suspects. If Hamas is responsible for these crimes, this would be further evidence of how unsuited Hamas is to be part of a Palestinian government that seeks international sanction. If Hamas is shown to have been complicit in the kidnappings and murders, it deserves nothing less than international condemnation and isolation.
And if, unlikely that it is, Hamas is found not to have authorized the kidnapping or the murders, it still deserves condemnation for both celebrating the abductions and creating an environment in which the hatred that motivated the teens’ killers can thrive.
There will be those, of course, who will try to make excuses for the Palestinians, pointing out that the teenagers were settlers, and that the Palestinians are an “oppressed” people. And there will be those who will counsel restraint in response to these events. But as we commented after news surfaced of the teens’ abductions, the targeting of innocents is not the hallmark of a civilized society. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. Thus, when the face of Israel’s enemy includes those who slaughter children, the word “restraint” shouldn’t be the first thing to come from the lips of Israel’s allies.
We mourn with the families of our boys. We condemn those who prey upon innocents out of pure hatred, and who target the young as a means of causing the most pain to their adversaries. Such acts of cruelty are beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated.
May the memory of our boys be for a blessing, and may we and our Israeli brothers and sisters overcome our revulsion and pain as we pray for peace in our homeland.