Modi’in Cemetery, Israel The bodies of Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad; Gilad Sha’ar, 16, from Talmon; and Naftali Frenkel, also 16, from Nof Ayalon – who were murdered nearly three weeks ago by terrorists after being abducted on their way home from school – were laid to rest side by side this afternoon in Modi’in cemetery.
Tens of thousands took part at the funeral ceremony that began at roughly 6:40 p.m., with slightly over an hour delay apparently due to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s late arrival amid the complicated arrangements of coordinating the thousands of participants.
The three bodies, wrapped in Israeli flags, were laid beside the podium.
At the start of the ceremony, the fathers of the three murdered teens recited kaddish (the prayer for the dead) together, facing the flag-draped bodies of their sons.
Rabbi Dov Zinger, Dean of Yeshiva Makor Chaim in Kfar Etzion where Naftali and Gilad studied, and where the teens were returning from when they were abducted and murdered, spoke next.
“You were abducted at the start, the very start of your lives,” said the rabbi, describing the boys and their personalities.
Addressing the families, the rabbi commented “you opened your hearts and your doors to us in recent days,” noting how through bringing all of Israel together in sorrow – from across the religious and political spectrum – they succeeded in unifying the nation.
“Let us remember that saying ‘two Jews, three opinions’ – but one heart,” remarked Rabbi Zinger.
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau in his passionate speech described how “you see the nation with so much empathy…we saw what a strong nation there is here…no one could ever harm this nation…because it’s one nation with one heart.”
“Even if you cut off these three flowers you never will succeed, because there’s a continuation. There’s Gilad, Naftali and Eyal in all the people of Israel and the whole world,” added Rabbi Lau. Addressing G-d, he added “No one can defeat this people, even in hard moments they stand before You in prayer. …They don’t give up on an eternal tradition.”
“Rest in peace, our holy brothers, rest in peace on the the land…whose many children accompany you today with a promise that we are continuing,” concluded the rabbi. “The sons continues in the land that is an inheritance of their fathers, which became an inheritance of the sons.”
A visibly emotional Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu then took to the podium.
“In the last 18 days the figures of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were carved on our hearts. …This day spontaneously became a national day of mourning.
“The whole nation prayed for the return of the boys, and the whole nation saw the nobility of spirit, and inner strength of you, the parents,” added the prime minister.
“The nation understood immediately the depth of the roots and the strength of spirit you possess,” continued Netanyahu, turning to the parents. “We learned a lesson that will not be forgotten, of faith and firmness, of unity and sensitivity, of Judaism and humanity.”
Netanyahu continued “a whole nation stood together and received a reminder: who are we? why are we here?”
Addressing the mothers Racheli, Bat-Galim and Iris, Netanyahu remarked “you gave the whole world a lesson about the cry of a mother,” likely referencing their speech at the UN.
“These are despicable murderers of children, whose brothers rejoice over the spilled blood of the innocent. A deep moral abyss separates between us and our enemies. They sanctify death, we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we sanctify mercy. That’s the secret to our strength, and also the basis for our unity,” noted Netanyahu.
“Life has it’s own strength, like a river that drags us forward, and gives us hope,” concluded the Prime Minister. “An entire nation cries and embraces you…they will be a source of comfort.”
Jerusalem Post/AP/Arutz 7 contributed to this report.
“We will strike with a strong hand until terror is eradicated at the root,” Peres vowed. “Terrorism is a boomerang,” the president added, saying that acts of terror such as the kidnapping are directed at Israel, but do more harm to those who carry out the acts.