TORONTO — Close to 2,000 members of Toronto’s Jewish community filled Shaarei Shomayim Congregation on July 7 in a show of solidarity and unity, and to say their final goodbyes to Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel, the three Israeli teens kidnapped and murdered by Hamas June 12.
“These boys were targeted for being Jewish and Israeli,” Canadian Minister of Finance Joe Oliver told the crowd. “For that crime of identity, they were abducted and slaughtered in hatred and cruelty…
“On this day of sorrow, I say to you that Canada will stand with Israel through fire and water. I reaffirm the prime minister’s commitment because it is right, because it aligns us with an ally in its battle against international terrorism, because if reflects the best of Canadian values,” said Oliver.
Master of ceremonies for the event, Berl Nadler, Greater Toronto co-chair of Centre for Jewish and Israeli Affairs (CIJA), said that while the crowd was there to mourn the loss of the three young Israelis, there was a fourth teen who met with a cruel and senseless end.
“Tonight we not only mourn the inexcusable slaying of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, zichronam livracha, may their memories be blessed, but also the horrific killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and the madness triggering such cruel, criminal behavior,” said Nadler.
“All of these young men were victims of murders motivated by hatred so deep that killing became not only natural, not only a religious obligation, but a source of celebrations. We condemn all such acts, whether perpetrated by Arabs or Jews, for whatever reason. There is no political or religious rationale for such inexcusable, inhuman behavior,” said Nadler.
Psalms were read and three rabbis spanning the religious spectrum delivered heartfelt messages prior to the lighting of memorial candles. In a particularly emotional scene, teens from religious youth movement Bnei Akiva sang “Acheinu,” Hebrew for “Our Brothers.”
“From the time the State of Israel was established 66 years ago, we Israelis have had to practice dealing with bereavement, but we will never get used to is, and we will never get over it,” said Irit Stopper, Israel’s Deputy Consul General, Ontario & Western Canada. “There is nothing worse than the pain and grief of losing a loved one. From my personal experience, I can say this; days go by, life goes on, but there is no cure for this grief.”
“It was night of unity and shared purpose,” said Ted Sokolsky, president & CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “As Canadians we were proud of the unequivocal support our government continues to provide Israel during through ‘fire and water’ and, as Jews, we all felt as Am Echad [“one people”] as we sat together in remembrance.”
“Shortly after the boys were kidnapped, we rallied for their safe return and now that they were murdered, we rallied again to memorialize them,” said Howard English, senior vice president of CIJA. “That’s the least we can do because in life and death, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali united the Jewish people as never before.”
The memorial service was organized by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and its advocacy partner, the Centre for Jewish and Israeli Affairs (CIJA).