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Faith kept Fraenkel going after son’s murder

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“G-d will do what G-d feels fit to do.” These were the poignant words that Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of slain schoolboy Naftali who was murdered by Hamas militants along with Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah in 2014, said kept her going throughout the 18-day ordeal while she was waiting for him to be found.
by STAFF REPORTER | Aug 10, 2016

STAFF REPORTER

PHOTOGRAPHS: SAZF

She was speaking at a Women’s Day function hosted by the SA Zionist Federation at the HOD in Orchards attended by over 600 people.

An emotional Fraenkel told of the day of the kidnapping in June 2014. “It was a Thursday evening and the last day of school. Naftali was returning from a field trip. He usually would have come on the Friday morning, but decided to return early.

“He was a big, responsible child so we happily went to sleep expecting him home later,” she said.

At 03:30, while they were still sleeping, the police came knocking at her door and told the family about the kidnapping.

“They informed us that it was an act of terror and said there were thousands of people looking for the three boys,” she said.

The 18 days’ wait for the boys to be found were filled with official delegations visiting the families - including high-ranking government officials and lots of media. Support streamed in from all over the world.

“This tragic event brought people together - all people - both within Israel and outside. Different Jewish religious factions, political parties and people of all religions were united in prayer and support for us. That is what gave us strength during those days,” she said.

After the discovery of the bodies followed the period of mourning. This led to the establishment of Unity Day when Jerusalem Mayor Nir Birkat visited the grieving families and asked what could be done to preserve their memory.

Gesher, an organisation that works to close the gap between secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, as well as former President Shimon Peres, helped endorse and support this initiative.

Fraenkel has been all over the world sharing her message of peace and unity. She was even invited to speak at the United Nations Human Rights Council. She has had numerous television interviews, met Israeli presidents and prime ministers and has become a public leader and a national heroine leading the Unity Day campaign.

Asked how she retained her faith in the light of the tragedy, Fraenkel said she was always aware of the possibility of crisis in faith under these circumstances.

“One feels abandoned, let down, vulnerable, fragile and dependent. It doesn’t seem rational. Bad things happen to others - not to me, I thought. It is a lesson in humility and faith. For some people, faith never changes. For me, it is a dynamic life - I did feel doubts and estranged at times, but G-d has been great enough to contain my doubts. It is okay to be angry; anger is part of the relationship with G-d,” she said.

Fraenkel said throughout the ordeal, everyone in government was completely honest with her.

“They kept us informed every step of the way,” she recounted.

The families were taken by the army to the site where the bodies were recovered, northwest of Hebron.

“We had to have closure. But it is a miracle that the bodies were recovered. There are literally millions of holes leading underground and rocks in the area. It is thanks to the human devotion of thousands of people who searched, and Divine grace, that they were found.

 

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