Marking 30 days to the discovery of the bodies of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, a large memorial service was held Tuesday in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue.
The event, titled "Remembering and Uniting" was attended by the three bereaved families as well as Israel's new President Reuven Rivlin as well as Israel's chief rabbis and the prime minister's wife Sara Netanyahu.
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The ceremony was held as IDF forces battled in Gaza in a bloody conflict which has seen over 1,100 Palestinians and 53 IDF soldiers killed. The boys' kidnapping and murder is seen by some as the catalyst for the recent bout of fighting which ignited as IDF forces searched the West Bank for their bodies and cracked down on Hamas which Israel views as responsible for the incident.
From left: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel (Photo: Shaul Golan)
The Gaza conflict was omnipresent, and Bat Galim Shaer, Gil-Ad's mother, could not help but connect between the two events.
"Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal were kidnapped and murdered because they were Jewish. Though you were young, you had already begun to think about where you would serve in the army. Who would have thought you would be the first fallen of this operation. Our hearts go out to the mothers, widows and orphans," the grieving mother said.
She also sent a message to Israel's leadership saying, "the people understand who is their real enemy and who must be protected. The government understands its mission and we all believe that it will take care its responsibilities."
Racheli Frenkel, the mother of Naftali, also connected the event to Operation Pillar of Defense.
"A memorial held during wartime is a private moment in a collective time, but now the private moment is intertwined within the collective one. During the Shiva (the Jewish week of mourning) young students shared their love of Nafatli with us and we want to share this love with the families of the soldiers in Gaza and those operating Iron Dome.
"I walk down the street and people come up to me and say: 'Frenkel, your son saved Israel. He is not only your child but all of ours."
According to military estimates, the boys, who were found dead after 18 days of massive search efforts, were killed almost immediately after being captured on June 12th as part of a premeditated attack by a terror cell.
President Rivilin, who recently replaced Shimon Peres to be Israel's 10th president, said also attempted to connect the current operation in Gaza, with its heavy focus on Hamas' terror tunnels, to the sad murder of the three Israeli boys.
Rivlin with Ofir Shaer, father of Gil-Ad (Photo: Haim Zach, GPO)
"As time passes and we discover more and more terror tunnels, we can clearly see the deep-seated connection between Hamas in Gaza and Hamas in Hebron (where the boys were killed).
"The strategy of evil is what connects between the murderous act that was perpetrated to Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali and the infiltration attacks planned by Hamas in the south. They want to kidnap and murder indiscriminately, sowing fear and hatred.
"In face of Hamas' engineers of death we mustn't give up on life and the morals of life."
The president also offered warm words to the families and citizens of Israel, saying "I always believed in the resilience and strength of Israel, but in days like these I am amazed by the youths I meet, those who fell in combat, among them Naftali, Eyal and Gil-Ad. The pain that cuts through our heart is tremendous.
"We have lost the best of our boys, but we must remember that these boys, the best our country had to offer, where just the type of youth we have always dreamt for ourselves."
Opposition Chairman Issac Herzog (Labor) was also present and said "this despicable murder was only the tip of the iceberg of a dangerous machine of death. In their death these three boys united the entire nation.
"Their death was the signal that heralded the bloody battle which Israel is currently fighting, we back the IDF and the political leadership. We are fighting a just struggle."
GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon also attended the ceremony, and said "our mission has not ended. I promise you we will not rest until those behind the murder of your kids will be brought to justice. This is our responsibility."