AP — The family of an Israeli-American teen believed to have been abducted in the West Bank says it has received an outpouring of support from friends and family back in the US.
Naftali Frankel is believed to have been abducted late Thursday with two other teens, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, as they were hitchhiking home from a school in the West Bank. Since then, Israel has been on a furious search for the boys, arresting dozens of members of the militant group Hamas, which Israel’s prime minister said was behind the kidnapping. The teens have not been heard from.
Frankel’s grandparents moved to Israel from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1956. Although Frankel, 16, was born and raised in Israel, he paid brief visits to the US while growing up, said his aunt, Ittael Frankel.
She said most of his cousins, aunts and uncles live in the US, mostly in the Monsey and Flatbush areas of Brooklyn as well as in upstate New York and other parts of the state.
She said her brother’s synagogue and other synagogues in Brooklyn have been organizing prayer vigils for the teen. A prayer vigil was scheduled for later Monday outside the Israeli consulate in New York.
“We’re getting a lot of support from family,” she told the Associated Press. “My brother is feeling a lot of support and solidarity from his friends.”
Frankel’s family affirmed its trust in Israel’s rescue efforts and expressed gratitude for the nationwide support. The story has generated round-the-clock news coverage, and 30,000 or so people gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Sunday evening to pray for the teens’ safety.
“He is a kid full of happiness and smiles,” said Ittael Frankel. “We are optimistic; we really hope to see him home soon.”
As the search entered its fourth day, the ordeal continued to capture national attention with nearly nonstop updates by Israeli media.
Naftali Frankel and his six siblings are American citizens. His aunt confirmed the family has been in contact with the US ambassador to Israel.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday condemned the kidnapping, stopping short of assigning blame to Hamas. “We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act,” Kerry said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed the disappearance of the teens on Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist group by Israel and the West. Hamas denies any role in the kidnappings and called the accusations “stupid.”
“We are of course very, very worried, we really, really want to see him home fast,” said Ittael Frankel.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.