The mothers of the three abducted Israeli teens made an impassioned plea for help and solidarity at the Israeli Knesset Wednesday in a meeting with a delegation of European Jewish leaders.
Visiting Israel for the Israeli Jewish Congress’s annual mission to promote ties with the Diaspora, the heads and leaders of European Jewish communities pledged to lobby their governments to support Israel’s efforts in its search for Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, now in its thirteenth day
Rachelle Fraenkel translated from Hebrew to English for Iris Yifrach and Bat-Galim Shaar, who thanked the international Jewish communities for their support.
“What strengthens us is all the support we get from Jews in Israel and all over the world… It is essential to our continued activities in getting the children home,” said Iris Yifrach.
Bat-Galim Sha’ar said she and the other families had heard about the vigils and prayers around the world and was grateful. “But the world must understand that kidnapping children is not legitimate.”
Fraenkel, who has become the spokesperson for the families on the international stage, was visibly moved as she asked heads of Jewish communities to keep pressuring their governments. The more sympathetic the public in those nations, she said, the more rope Israel will receive to continue its search for the teens.
Fraenkel noted a “special spirit” in the Jewish world.
“Every heart we hear is beating with us,” she said, regardless of people’s affiliation and level of observance. “There is a special good will in the air. I’m usually slightly cynical, but I’ve lost that… Something is happening in Am Yisrael [the People of Israel].”
The delegates sang the Israeli national anthem “HaTikvah” and were photographed with the mothers holding signs bearing the rallying cry “Bring back our boys.
After the mothers’ appearance, the European leaders discussed ways in which their Jewish communities could aid, including letter-writing campaigns, offering a monetary reward for useful information, and asking for portraits of the boys to be posted in capital cities, as was done for the imprisoned soldier Gilad Schalit.
“The Palestinian Authority depends on donations and financing from EU countries; it is vital for them. We should send letters, applications to cut support to the PA,” said Israeli Jewish Congress President Vladimir Sloutsker.
Belgian leader Eli Ringer, a former president of the Forum der Joodse Organisities, said his community took the initiative and sent a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday telling the PA “they will be downgraded.”
Two student leaders offered social media as a battleground for public opinion and asked the leaders to mentor and push Jewish students to take to Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness. They warned that the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourboys was currently being used primarily by anti-Israel propagandists.
Currently the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourboys is being used primarily by anti-Israel propagandists
Eduard Odoner, vice president of the Polish community, said that the teens’ families’ struggle and the search operation were a “purely humanitarian effort.”
Financing the families’ efforts was discussed, and student Chaya Esther Pomeranz noted that alongside the costs of the ongoing PR struggle, their livelihoods are at stake as none of the parents are working at this time.
Pomeranz noted there was a crowdfunding campaign for prize money, but that no one was taking care of the families.
“This is a time for solidarity,” said Yitzhak Eldan, diplomatic adviser to the Israeli-Jewish Congress, concluding the meeting.