Only a day after tens of thousands of people crowded into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to show support for the families of three kidnapped teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, hundreds of Israelis once again returned to the site, this time in order to commemorate their memory.
Hundreds of people gathered Monday night at the homes of the families of the slain teens as well, offering support and expressing their condolences. According to Channel 2, police were forced to bar off the families’ homes in order to afford them privacy as a continuous stream of visitors was arriving at the three sites.
The three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on June 12 while hitchhiking from a bus stop in the Etzion Bloc. Their bodies were found in a field outside Halhul, near Hebron in the West Bank, on Monday afternoon.
In Jerusalem, over 300 people gathered in Zion Square to light candles in memory of the youths. The gathering was organized by students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem but quickly drew crowds from around the city as well.
“There are many different people here, from all communities,” one of the gathering’s organizers told The Times of Israel.
“In this difficult time, the solidarity is heartwarming.”
In the Etzion Bloc, at the bus stop where the youths were kidnapped, residents of the nearby settlements of Alon Shevut and Kfar Etzion gathered in prayer dedicated in memory of the teenagers, Channel 2 reported. Nearby, hundreds of people gathered at intersections along Route 60, from Efrat to Hebron, in order to pray, sing and light candles.
Dozens of people blocked the main highway between Efrat and the Etzion Junction in protest of the murders, Israel National News reported. The demonstrators demanded that the government and the IDF strike at Palestinian terrorists and dismantle the Hamas terror group’s infrastructure across the West Bank.
A number of people gathered at the Coca-Cola Junction near Bnei Brak as well to recite psalms and to commemorate the youths.
After the bodies of the three teenagers were found, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the president of the Mekor Haim Yeshiva where two of the teenagers studied, expressed horror at the murder and urged Jews around the world not to despair.
“These boys, our boys, have died al kiddush Hashem [to sanctify God], simply because they are Jews,” Steinsaltz said in a statement.
“We cannot just light a candle and say a prayer. It is up to us now to live our lives al Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify God through our deeds and our lives. The word haim [life] takes the plural form because it contains both the good and the bad. It is up to us to go on.”
The bodies of the three teenagers were found in an area near Halhul northof Hebron in the West Bank on Monday afternoon. Israeli security forces, which had been conducting extensive searches in the area, sealed off the area and declared it a closed military zone. Hebron was also sealed off.
A search team from the local Kfar Etzion field school, along with IDF soldiers from an elite unit, found the teens. The local volunteers had been asking for two weeks to join the search.
The bodies were found at about 5:30 p.m., bound and partially buried, in an open field in a hard-to-access area known as Wadi Tellem near Halhul. The site is less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where the teens had been abducted.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.