From the moment news of the kidnapping broke, the hearts of Klal Yisrael went out to the families of the three missing boys.
The media ban on the story was lifted at 5 p.m. Friday, Israel time, and before Shabbos entered, sound cars were already on the streets of Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak urging people to say Tehillim for Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Sha’ar, the teenagers who disappeared on Thursday night and were believed kidnapped by terrorists.
Later, on Friday afternoon as people made their way to Shabbos tefillos, children were handing out flyers with the names of the three boys so that they could include them in their prayers. Giant posters urging prayers for their safety were hung at the entrances to a number of central synagogues in Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak. They bore their full Hebrew names: Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim and Eyal ben Iris Teshurah.
At candlelighting, women all over the country were praying for their safe return, and Jewish communities in Israel and abroad were beseeching Hashem’s mercy during special tefillos through Shabbos and Sunday.
On Leil Shabbos at midnight, hundreds arrived at the Kosel to pour out their hearts for the boys. Again on Sunday, thousands came to the Kosel for additional tefillos.
Bat-Galim Shaar, Gilad’s mother, thanked the citizens of Israel for offering their prayers, and said she felt blessed to be supported by so many people.
“I want to ask the people of Israel, Keep praying together! … With the help of Hashem, with this unity, we will succeed,” Mrs. Shaar said.
“Naftali, Mom and Dad and your siblings love you endlessly, and you should know that the people of Israel are turning the world upside down to bring you home,” Rachel Frankel, Naftali’s mother, told Israeli media from her Nof Ayalon home, in the central region of the country.
“People from all over the country are gathering to pray for your return. We love you and will celebrate your return!”
“We are optimistic that Hashem will see the combined effort of solidarity and prayer,” she said.
In the meantime, Frankel thanked the public for the outpouring of support and the security services for their intensive efforts to find her son and his two friends.
“We are surrounded by a very warm group of family [and friends],” she said. “They take care of us and look after us and our children, and we are constantly in touch with the army, the police, the Shin Bet and the government.”
“We are grateful to every soldier in the field, Knesset member, parents of soldiers and the media for bringing our story to the world,” Mrs. Frankel said.
Frankel is an American citizen, with an extended family residing in New York.
Harav Mendel Rokeach, the Bertche Rav, shlita, whose beis medrash is located in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, told Hamodia that the kidnapped bachur is his great-nephew.
“The mother of Yaakov Naftali Frankel is my niece, he is my sister’s granddaughter,” the Rav said. “The bachur is descended from a long line of Rebbes, among them, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Apter Rav, the Belz Rav, the Bnai Yissaschar, the Kozhnitzer Maggid and the Ropshitzer Rav, zy”a.
“May zechus avos protect the bachurim and bring them home safely,” the Rav emotionally said.
At the Belzer beis medrash in Yerushalayim, the Belzer Rebbe, shlita, instructed that an atzeres tefillah be held for the bachurim prior to the last sheva brachos for his grandchildren, during which the fourth sefer of Tehillim was completed.
Shas Torah Sages Council chairman Harav Shalom Cohen called for all of Israel to pray for the captives on Friday, appealing specifically to women lighting Shabbat candles.
Tefillah gatherings were held at some 700 government religious schools at 11:30 in the morning on Sunday.
A large atzeres tefillah was held at the Mekor Chaim yeshivah in Kfar Etzion where two of the abducted teens, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Sha’ar, study; and another at the Shavei Chevron yeshivah in Chevron where Eyal Yifrach is enrolled.
The main prayer service at Mekor Chaim was led by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.
“Our enemies want to harm us. It is difficult for them to see us settled in the Holy Land. The nation of Israel does not break. Together we call on the Creator of the universe together. One nation with one heart,” Rabbi Lau said.
Yishai Frankel, Naftali’s uncle, said the family members “are together, helping each other and getting all our updates only from official sources,” and not listening to the rumors that abound.
Asked about Naftali, he described his nephew as “a normal youngster, a little kid really.”
He added that the family “is in shock, it was a very tense Shabbos and we were all together in the house.”
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, founder of the Mekor Chaim Educational Institutions, released a statement reflecting the emotions and faith in response to the terrible event:
“The kidnapping of our students is a shocking, painful and frightening event. In a time and place that had seemed to us quiet and serene, we have been thrown into an event that we can do nothing to resolve.
“All we have left now is to turn to our Father in Heaven and plead. We do not despair because we doubt our Heavenly Father. Rather we feel helpless because, ‘G-d is in Heaven and you are upon earth’ (Koheles 5:1).”
“Thus, we can never know the extent that our pleas and cries reach Heaven — and also have some effect here, on earth. What we can do — and this has been the Jewish way from time immemorial — is to add more holiness and learn more Torah. If we can, each of us should take upon ourselves something additional, no matter how small, especially and explicitly devoted for the sake and well-being of the missing boys.”
From his prison cell in Butner, North Carolina, Jonathan Pollard released a statement on the kidnapping through his supporters: “In the depths of Gehinnom, Jonathan Pollard is davening for the safe return of our three boys who were kidnapped on Thursday by a blood-thirsty Palestinian terrorist cell.
“Jonathan urges everyone to drop what you are doing and to pray urgently for the immediate rescue and safe return home of our kidnapped boys, alive, healthy and unharmed.”
Senior Israeli officials also reached out to the families.
President Shimon Peres spoke with the parents of the three missing boys by phone on Motzoei Shabbos. “I know that these are difficult days for you, we are one nation, we are one family and I want you to know that all of Israel is with you during these difficult times,” he said.
The parents thanked Peres for the call and said, “We feel the embrace of the people of Israel and we know that everything is being done to bring them back home. We pray for their return and for good news.”
Minister of the Interior Gideon Saar visited all three families and later told Arutz Sheva how impressed he was by them, “amazing [families that are] dealing with this difficult situation in a way that is hard to imagine, with amazing mental strength and the support of the entire community.
“This is the nation of Israel at its very best,” he added.