Gil-Ad Shaer was "young and innocent with all his life in front of him,." his tearful aunt, Leehy Shaer, told CNN on Monday, just hours after the bodies of Gil-Ad, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach were found in the West Bank.
"I am still in shock and can't believe I am holding his picture - this is too sad to even imagine," she said. "He won't be able to be in his sister's bat mitzvah coming up soon".
The Shaer family, like the Frenkel and Yifrach families, retreated inside their home in Talmon and asked not to receive any visitors, so that they could console one other and break the terrible news to Gil-Ad's 4-year-old sister, to whom they had promised that her big brother would return home soon.
Leehy told CNN that she had felt something was wrong even before she heard the dreadful news.
"I didn't have a good feeling; it was the same feeling when they were kidnapped. And in the morning I called my brother and he said he couldn't talk.
Gil-Ad Shaer's sisters after hearing the bad news (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
"I started to get really worried and then I heard the bad news, the worst news - that Gil-Ad was murdered. I hope this would never occur to anybody nor any child in any place in the world and that terrorism will disappear from this world," said Leehy.
Ezra, Gil-Ad's grandfather, said that while he was praying at the synagogue Monday evening, a friend sent him a vague text message regarding the boys' fate.
Gil-Ad Shaer (Photo: Courtesy of the family)
"I went to the synagogue at 7 pm, and while I was praying I received a text message from a friend, which said 'Is it true what I just heard?' I didn't know what to make of it, and told myself I would call him after the prayers," said Ezra, Gil-Ad's grandfather.
"When I returned the call, my friend told me that a friend of his had been watching Al Jazeera when they reported about the discovery of the bodies of the three boys by IDF soldiers.
"I have one request of all the people who believed over the past three weeks that the boys would return alive - please don't stop believing and praying," he added.
Talmon residents met Monday night with the community's Rabbi Rami Berachyahu and council to update the residents on the sad news and to support each other.
"We mustn't let the heroism of the past 18 days fade away", said the rabbi. "The Shaers are going to need the strength of the community in the days to come. We will be there for them in the future just as we have been there for them in the last 18 days. Let's hope that God will help us find the strength to cope – not through suffering and disagreement, but through kindness and kind words."
The children of Gush Talmonim were supposed to start summer vacation today, but Mateh Binyamin Regional Council decided to open the schools in order to help the kids cope with the difficult news.
"The schools will be opened today with the regular teaching staff and a team of psychologists and social workers, the children's summer camps program in the kindergartens and schools is cancelled for today and will probably start operating tomorrow," said Eli Yemini, a friend of the Shaer family.
In addition the council launched an emergency hotline to offer support for the community's residents, in particular its teenagers.
At Eyal Yifrach's family home in Elad, they were still finding it hard to accept the fact that their son, like the other two boys, was gone.
"For almost three weeks the family lived with the hope and faith that their son was alive and today, after they were notified about the finding of the three bodies, they were shocked and couldn't believe it," said a close friend of the family.
He said that family members who had arrived at the house in tears were told by Eyal's father, Uri, that they need to stop crying because the news was not conclusive and that the boys hadn't yet been identified.
The Frenkel family home in Nof Ayalon was also finding it difficult to adjust on Tuesday morning.
The family kept themselves inside the house, and only relatives and police officers entered. Residents and neighbors who returned from the synagoue made a stop at the family home to pay their respect.
Teenagers and older residents continued to visit the prayer tent set up "for the success of the operation and the safe return of the boys", but on Tuesday they were saying a cdifferent kind of prayer – for the memories of Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal.
"People of all ages come here and pray, because age doesn't make a difference in this case - it's just painful. Yesterday, a group of girls who didn't even know Naftali came here and cried as if he were their brother," said a local boy.
At the entrance to the Frenkel house, a notebook had been provided for visitors to write messages to the family who couldn't personally receive the countless visitors. By Tuesday morning, the words of encouragment had been replaced by utterances of consolation.
On the fences around the house there are still signs with the slogan "Shavu Banim Legvulam" ("Your children will return to their own land" - from the Book of Jeremiah). But the boys will never return.