The last post was about the balance of the Pope’s trip here, more or less, as well as what was billed as the “prayer summit”, which was the ecumenical gathering, purportedly for prayer, at the Vatican, where the Pope hosted outgoing Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and the President of the “Palestinian Authority”, Mahmoud Abbas. That gathering has already been discussed in the last blog, so I won’t go into it again here.
My intention was to get back to the regular updates of The Week That Was … It’s been a tough couple of weeks, with lots of “situations” here. While some events were encouraging, such as the election of Reuven (Rubi, or Ruby or Ruvi) Rivlin, as the President of Israel, who will very shortly replace outgoing President Shimon Peres, there were other events that were problematic and tragic. I began to discuss some of them, but stopped.
But, the focus of the nation, as we closed out this week, was on the fate of three young yeshiva students, 2 of whom are 16 years old and the third is 19. They were kidnapped on their way home from their studies at the yeshiva.
3 Israeli youth were kidnapped on their way home from yeshiva studies.
It is every parent’s feared nightmare – the child who was supposed to come home by a certain time, didn’t. No word from him, no communication, no knowledge of his whereabouts. All they know is that after he left the place where he was in order to go home, he never made it. The three yeshiva students, Gil-ad Shaar (16) from the settlement of Talmon, Naftali Frenkel (16) from Nof Ayalon and holder of dual citizenship (Israeli and U.S.), near Modi’in and Elad Yifrach (19) from Elad, near Petah Tikva, were returning late from their studies from the yeshiva high school in Gush Etzion (near Hevron) Thursday night when they were kidnapped, apparently, while trying to hitch a ride home. An offshoot of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, an extremist Salafist group known as Dawlat al-Islam, has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, allegedly in retaliation for the killing of three Sunni militants by Israeli forces in November of last year. As of this writing, the whereabouts of the three young men is not known. That claim did not rise to the level of firm belief by Israeli security forces and members of the Cabinet.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Saturday afternoon that we are working on the assumption that the boys are still alive. He admitted that this event had taken place “under the radar” of intelligence gatherers who therefore failed to thwart the attack. As he stated: “We are in the midst of an intelligence (gathering) and operational effort…I hope this effort leads us as soon as possible to the missing (teens) and to rescuing them alive…As long as we don’t know differently, our working assumption is that they are still alive..This phenomenon of abductions, of abduction attempts is nothing new. In 2013 we managed to prevent over 30 such abduction attempts; this year, in 2014, around 14 such kidnapping attempts. Apparently this incident went under the radar. But we will not rest until we release the missing (boys) and until we lay our hands on the terrorists who are responsible for this action.” As it turned out, there was a long interval between the time when the police were first alerted to the possibility of a kidnapping to the time that they passed that information on to military and security personnel. That time interval was critical and allowed for a successful kidnapping to take place.
Earlier in the day, a senior military official reportedly told one of the main t.v. news channels that “There are a number of lines of inquiry…This is not an incident of several hours, we are preparing for days. This isn’t going to be short.”
The IDF spokesman said that elite Paratroopers Brigade and other special units went sent to the Hebron region to help in finding clues that would lead to the location of the boys, adding that it would be difficult for a terror group to hide live hostages in the “West Bank” for an extended period of time because of the IDF’s heavy presence there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of being responsible for the kidnappings. The “Palestinian” Authority recently under Mahmoud Abbas recently made amends with the terrorist Hamas organization located in Gaza and the two formed a “Palestinian” unity government after the U.S.-brokered peace talks failed. The P.A. denied any involvement in the kidnappings. Apparently, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke with Abbas and urged him to make every effort to help find the boys and was assured that he was already doing so. Just to be on the safe side, the U.S. State Department issued another “travel warning” for Israel, the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip. By this morning, the P.M. put the blame squarely at the foot of Hamas.
Meanwhile, when the news of the kidnappings was made known in the areas under the control of the “Palestinians”, particularly in Gaza, they held celebrations and handed out sweets in public areas – a typical way of celebrating in their culture. The pictures brought back visions of “Palestinians” dancing on the roof-tops after the Twin Towers were attacked and fell on September 11, 2001. The population was “encouraged” not to participate with Israeli forces, who combed the area house by house, and even to “resist” our forces in their efforts to locate the kidnapped boys.
Prior kidnappings of Israelis have not all turned out well. While some were released in exchange for prisoners being held in Israel, others were returned to us in caskets. The nation waits for good news, but the concern is that it may take time and the longer it takes, the worse the situation will be.
The news of the kidnappings immediately brought back memories of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, who was held as a prisoner of Hamas for 5 years. As difficult as that was, still, Shalit was a soldier, in uniform, performing his assigned tasks when he was abducted. This latest event has to do with teenagers, yeshiva students, not soldiers.
At first, it was a simply “local” matter, touching the heartstrings of Israelis. Very few news media outside the country could be bothered to report about the kidnapping of three Jewish boys in Israel. It was either ignored, or given scant press. But, there was a national outpouring of sympathy for the boys and their families. Prayer gatherings were instituted “from Dan to Beersheva”, including participation by thousands who showed up at the Western Wall (of the Second Temple), the social media networks were activated and information was spread across the world. “Bring Back Our Boys” is the slogan that is being sent out across cyberspace, showing photos of the three young men.
If these three young men are not returned soon, and healthy, the situation could easily deteriorate with retaliatory measures being taken against Hamas. Israel is simply fed up with the constant missile attacks from Gaza and with Hamas trying to see how far it can go before Israel responds. We’ve already taken one senior Hamas leader into custody as a result of the kidnapping. There could be more Hamas leaders taken into custody and military action could be pursued that will obliterate the Hamas infrastructure. Enough is enough. It’s easy to point a finger at Israel and blame us for going after military targets in Gaza. How long would it take for the U.S. to take action if some of its sons were kidnapped by terrorists on U.S. soil? Have Americans forgotten what happened at Oklahoma City, or the World Trade Center? What about Europe? What will it take for them to open their eyes to the reality of terrorism and takes steps to deal with it? Some say that Europe is already lost and America is almost sunk. Is it still the “home of the free and the land of the brave”?
A bill is pending in the Knesset that would prevent Israeli leaders from being able to offer prisoner releases in exchange for political concessions in any future discussions or “negotiations” with “Palestinians”. The coalition government of P.M. Netanyahu came under intense pressure last year when he agreed to the release of over 100 terrorists in Israeli jails, just to get the “Palestinians” to sit down and talk with us. Some 80 prisoners were released during the nine months of talks that led nowhere, but there was a hold put on the last prisoner release, because it included Israeli Arabs, who were responsible for the deaths of Israelis. The cabinet approved the bill, which now needs to brought for a vote before the Knesset plenum. Naftali Bennett wholeheartedly praised the approval of the Bill, commenting: “If the State of Israel doesn’t back the simple morality that murderers need to die in jail, from this moment there won’t be any choice”, adding that cabinet approval of the Bill was a “Zionist response” to the recently announced “Palestinian unity government of terror.” He concluded that passage of the Bill would make this government “the government of the war on terror.”
The decision not to negotiate the release of prisoners “with blood on their hands” may be tested before it even becomes law. If the kidnapped youths are still alive, and they are not returned quickly, we may find ourselves facing another round of negotiations to release them. The prospect is not a pleasant one. May we all pray that it will not be necessary and, indeed, that our boys will be brought back home, alive and healthy. Our nation needs wisdom and Divine intervention. But, our leaders continue to think that we can do it on our own.
Updates on the situation will follow, as will the continuation of TWTW.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Blessings to all,