Good evening. Mayor Bielski, Rabbi Benny Lau, General Gantz, friends: To the Ifrach, Shaer, and Fraenkel families, my humble thanks for the honor of speaking tonight honoring your sons’ memories.
Last Friday marked one year since Gil-Ad, Eyal, and Naftali, were kidnapped. Three young men’s lives were cut tragically short, robbing their mothers and fathers, relatives and friends, of a lifetime of memories.
Naftali was an American citizen, and losing him, as well as losing Gil-Ad and Eyal, was something we all felt personally and deeply. President Obama condemned their killing in the strongest possible terms as a “senseless act of terror against innocent youth”
As Secretary Kerry said, the “killing of innocent youths is an outrage beyond any understanding or rationale.” He said at the time that he was “simply devastated.” As we all were. And we are to this day.
The loss of Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali was not only a loss for their families, for Israel, and for America. The loss of any child is a loss for the world.
There are no words to describe such a tragedy. The murder of a child is something every parent identifies with on a very personal level – this was not just a news story. The nightmare every parent dreads came to pass for three families. And as a father, I remember the anguish I felt when I heard the news of their kidnapping; I cannot imagine the terrible pain you experienced when you learned of their fate.
And I know that pain remains, despite the year that has passed since they were murdered.
Yet, I believe that we can take some solace in the positive impact that these young men had, and the way they have changed the lives of others. Looking at the crowd that has turned out this evening, it is clear that these three boys touched many lives.
And although their lives in this world were cut short, we can reflect and learn from their good works, their devotion to their families, their country and the Jewish people, and on what these three shining, bright souls did to improve our imperfect world.
We can reflect on the compassion, faith, and love they showed, each in their own unique way: Eyal volunteered with the elderly and with the Ethiopian community; Gil-Ad faithfully counseled children at his Bnei Akiva branch; and Naftali spread love to the world through music.
Also, we can admire the parents of these fine young men, who chose not to focus on tragedy, but on hope.
The values these boys embodied are values shared by Americans and Israelis alike, and it is my hope that their memories will help guide us to a better future.
Rachel Frankel, even at this time of tremendous personal grief, inspired unity when she condemned violence against any child, regardless of race or religion, or nationality, at this especially difficult moment in Israeli history.
So at this moment of sadness and hope, on behalf of my family, my government, and the American people, may their memories be blessed.
May God strengthen the hands and steady the knees of the families of Eyal, Gil-Ad, and Naftaly, and all of the people of Israel.
I’d like to end my remarks with the words of the touching song “Open Your Heart,” part of song project led by friends of the boys from Yeshivat Makor Haim, written by David Daur and other singers:
Open your hearts in compassion for your boys,
Their voices will be heard for generations,
Your words are forever in heaven
And give us comfort here on earth.