We hope and pray for the best. But we fear the worst. Each passing hour increases the fears. Each passing hour with no confirmed claim of responsibility, no demands.

We are a nation largely united in a fog of foreboding, while simultaneously marveling at the resilience of the parents of 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach and the two 16-year-olds, Naftali Frankel and Gil-ad Shaar.

All three mothers have stood before the microphones and the TV cameras these past two days, insistently holding back the emotional terrors, defiantly optimistic.

“Israel is turning the world upside down to bring you home,” said Frankel’s mother Racheli on Sunday, smiling — smiling — as she praised the security services for their efforts to find the three. “We believe” that Eyal will come home safely, insisted Iris Yifrach, Eyal’s mother, on Monday, lifting her eyes skyward.

Racheli Sprecher Frankel, mother of kidnapped Israeli youth Naftali, speaks to the press outside her house on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. She is flanked by the parents of two other teens kidnapped with her son, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Racheli Sprecher Frankel, mother of kidnapped Israeli youth Naftali, speaks to the press outside her house on Tuesday, June 16, 2014. She is flanked by the parents of two other teens kidnapped with her son, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. (screen capture: Channel 2)

We are a nation united, too, in a sense of helplessness — only reinforced by the press conference Monday evening at which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF chief Benny Gantz did nothing to encourage any other sentiment. Our leadership deploys its troops, orders arrests, talks tough, and contemplates home demolitions and deportations and the recapture of the terrorists it has set free in the past.

Israeli TV stations have been interviewing hostages rescued in 1976 at Entebbe; that’s what we want to believe might somehow be possible again: a daring raid, the kidnappers outwitted, the captives set free

But Hamas kept Gilad Shalit hidden for five years before we capitulated and freed more than a thousand Palestinian security prisoners to secure his release in 2011. And the kidnapping of Nachshon Wachsman by Hamas 20 years ago ended in tragedy when his captors executed him as an elite army unit attempted to break into the building where he was being held, a mission which also saw the killing of the IDF team’s leader Nir Poraz.

Israeli TV stations have been interviewing hostages rescued by the IDF in 1976 at Entebbe Airport; that’s what we want to believe might somehow be possible again: a daring raid, the kidnappers outwitted, the captives set free. We hope and pray, but we doubt that Hamas will be as easily overcome.

Entebbe hostages come home photo credit: IDF archives)

Entebbe hostages come home photo credit: IDF archives)

As we brace, we parents also feel an undeniable relief that it was not our children, this time, who fell into the hands of our enemies. Most of us know that we would demand any and every measure, including the release of every last killer from our jails, if it were our children who were being held, even as we recognize that our leaders’ readiness to go to outrageous lengths for the sake of past captives can only have contributed to this latest act of inhumanity. Time after time, Israel has shown terrorists that they can target us, murder us, kidnap us, and that even if they are captured and tried and jailed, they can confidently anticipate that they will be set free, as beneficiaries of the next act of vicious extortion.

That Hamas had failed in its kidnap efforts before Thursday was not for lack of trying

Many in our anxious nation also spare a little thought for the wider injustice of it all — the fact that Hamas draws succor from an international community, led by the United States, that proved willing to legitimize it as a pillar of the Palestinian “unity” government even though it remains committed to Israel’s destruction and demonstrably prepared to go to any lengths in support of that goal. Hamas has made no secret of its unstinting revulsion for Israel and Israelis. Its leadership has been relentlessly urging kidnappings. That its operatives had failed before Thursday was not for want of trying. John Kerry assures us that he is “engaged” with both sides over the crisis; his administration, last month, proved insufficiently engaged to look beneath the veneer of the Palestinians’ new government of “technocrats” and recognize that it rested on Hamas support, and that by rushing to embrace it, the US was embracing an unreformed Hamas.

The three missing teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel (Photo credit: Courtesy)

The three missing teens, from left to right: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frankel (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Netanyahu praised the US on Monday for its condemnation of the kidnapping, and said he expected other countries — so quick to condemn Israel for settlement expansion and other misdeeds — to issue similar condemnations. But that’s not what we really need, or have the right to expect, from the supposedly enlightened members of the international community. In their interests and in ours, they should be acting to counter Hamas and the rest of the all too numerous terrorist groups confronting Israel and others in this region and beyond, not embracing, appeasing or capitulating to them.

We live, in our sliver of contested land, in a region where Islamic extremism, notably right now in Iraq and Syria, departs ever further from the framework of humanity. We strive to retain our stability, our democracy, our resilience. We count our true friends on the fingers of one hand. And we brace for the worst, while hoping against hope that those astounding, inspirational parents will be vindicated in their optimism.