In a few days, it will be five years since the trio known as the Three Boys was kidnapped while hitchhiking home from school near Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion. The boys hopped into a car unthinkingly, only to realize that the driver and the man in the passenger seat, though wearing kippahs, were Palestinians.
One of the boys was able to reach for his cellphone and tell emergency services that they were being kidnapped. Gunshots were heard over the line, but the outcome of the incident was not conclusively known for 18 days, as Israelis became emotionally paralyzed while hanging on to every word of the hourly newscasts, hoping there would be some good news—any news—about the boys, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’ar, and Naftali Frenkel.
Only later would it become known that the boys were murdered shortly after they were taken. We were in Israel at the time, and it is easy to recall that there was a pall cast on everything we did, the places we went, and even the places where we dined. The talk in the street was about only one thing—the safety of the boys and the hope for their return.
Through a friend, we managed to meet with Racheli Frenkel in Nof Ayalon, the community where she and her family live. The meeting took place in the afternoon, just a few hours prior to the discovery of the bodies in the early evening in a shallow grave near Hebron.
We sat with Mrs. Frenkel as she talked about her confidence in the Israeli security authorities and the remarkable job they were doing in keeping hope alive for the families and all of Israel. I still don’t know whether she knew at the time that the hope of finding them alive was very slim, even flimsy. Maybe she did know but was hoping for a miracle.
As we sat with Racheli Frenkel, her cellphone rang. She answered the caller’s few short questions and then turned her attention back to my wife and me. She said that the caller was a police investigator and that they kept calling her to ask some questions. On this call, she said, they asked her about Naftali’s glasses. If I recall correctly, the exact inquiry was whether she thought he was wearing them or carrying them in his book bag.
We returned to Jerusalem, where I went to daven Ma’ariv in one of those small crack-in-the-wall shuls on one of the streets that parallel Rechov Ben Yehuda. As I walked out, there was a buzz in the crowd. The first word was that the boys were found, and then that, sadly, they were found murdered in a shallow grave.
The Yifrach, Sha’ar, and Frenkel families will tell you that despite the great loss they experienced, they took some comfort at the time—and always will—in the way in which these events not only brought the country together but all of the Jewish people in communities around the world. We davened and hoped for their safety and return but that was not to be, unfortunately.
It is now five years later and we recall with clarity where we were, what we were doing, and where we were sitting or standing when we heard the news. It was one of those moments. Today there is a yeshiva in Jerusalem that is being built in their memory. May it be a z’chus for their neshamos and a berachah for their families. Hashem yikom damam. n
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