Jews around the world were reeling from the horrific news Monday that the three Israeli boys kidnapped by terrorists were murdered, their bodies found in a shallow grave just north of Hebron in the West Bank.
The yeshiva students, Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were kidnapped from a hitchhiking post on June 12. Frenkel holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.
According to news reports citing Israeli security evaluations, terrorists killed the boys a short time after the kidnapping.
The Shin Bet was continuing intelligence efforts Monday evening to find Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, the suspected Hamas kidnappers and murderers. Meanwhile, more than 50 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israeli territory, according to a statement issued by the Israeli military on Sunday. Israeli army jets hit targets in Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
While the local Jewish community was united in mourning the deaths of the three boys, it also wrestled with the question of what these most recent murders of innocent civilian children meant for the peace process.
“This is not just a tragedy but a grave miscarriage of justice,” said Gregg Roman, director of the Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, noting that the families of two of the murdered teens did not even live beyond the Green Line, and one had an American mother.
First and foremost, Roman expressed condolences to the boys’ families.
“No words can really express the inexorable feelings that must be going through their hearts and souls right now,” he said.
The peace process, Roman said, has been stymied for years by the terrorist acts of “extremist elements and actors in Palestinian society.”
“They try to chip away the margins for peace with acts like this,” Roman said, pointing to other examples of brutal terror, such as the Palestinian murder of the Fogel family while they were sleeping in 2011 in Itamar.
“Little by little,” he said, “individuals are trying to sabotage the peace process.”
But Roman sees hope for peace in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the kidnappings and cooperation with the IDF in its search for the boys.
“You have to embrace the sides of the Palestinians who want a peace agreement,” he said. “As long as there is someone on the Palestinian side to talk to, we government should still be willing to talk to a Palestinian partner. But this is certainly not the way to define partnership, by killing young boys.”
David Ainsman, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of AIPAC, echoed the sentiments of Roman.
“The first thing we should do is mourn their deaths and celebrate their lives,” Ainsman said. “Then, we need to do everything we can to prevent this from ever happening again.
“I believe we should continue to attempt to make peace with Palestinians who share our desire for peace,” he continued. “But we have to keep fighting this horror. It’s so hard to believe that, once again, we are mourning Jewish children who were murdered just because they were Jews.”
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, spiritual leader of Shaare Torah Congregation, also expressed deep sympathy for the murdered boys and their families, while strongly condemning a society that supports and celebrates acts of terror.
“Our hearts grieve for these innocent boys and the unthinkable pain that their parents and families are experiencing,” Wasserman wrote in an email to The Chronicle . “We must never give up on the hope of peace. However, with each of these continuing horrific acts, we must finally realize that these people who choose to act as animals, and the society that supports and celebrates them, have no interest in peace and have no place in a civilized society.
“The suicidal delusion held by many Jews that there is something to negotiate or talk about will not change that reality,” Wasserman continued. “It will only change if that society repudiates its evil, terroristic way of life. Until then, we must strengthen each other and be there for one another, and to continue to develop the land, the state, and the people of Israel.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)