11 days, 3 hours and fifteen minutes. That’s exactly how long it’s been since Thursday, June 12 at 10:25pm in Israel, the exact moment that Gilad, Naftali and Eyal were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. Three innocent boys who’s only crime was having had the audacity to try and hitchhike home to their families for Shabbat. Three innocent boys who were kidnapped for no good reason other than being Jewish and living in the eternal homeland of the Jewish people.
That’s 962,100 seconds that three innocent Israel boys have been in captivity without any identifiable access to the most basic human rights — food, water, medical needs. That’s 16,035 minutes of pure hell for three families, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, not knowing where their sons are, if they’re okay or if they’re even alive. And that’s 267 hours of IDF soldiers selflessly and heroically risking their lives by meticulously going door to door in the West Bank trying to bring home our three boys.
But it’s also 11 days, 3 hours and fifteen minutes that the entire Jewish people, spanning the entire globe and across denominations, have been completely unified in their support for these families and of each other. Seldom have there been events in the entirety of Jewish history that have brought our often-fractured people together in vocal support for a cause. And that’s because for us, this is personal. For Jews around the world this isn’t simply a side story or part of the normal political jockeying in the Middle East. For us this is personal. These are our sons. These are our brothers. These are our boys. And we are here tonight to tell the world, that we’ll continue to feel the pain of our brothers and sisters in Israel, that we’ll continue to advocate on their behalf, that we won’t go away or be silent, that we’ll continue to show them our unified support, until our three boys are brought safely home.
Part of what I’ve found so challenging since last Thursday is that I am here and they are there. Yes, this kidnapping has taken over my life. I think about it all day. I wake up in the middle of the night to check the news, and my heart constantly aches for the families. But the challenging and frustrating part is that there’s not much any of us can really do. We are here, and they are there. Which is what I believe is the purpose of our gathering this evening. You see, I think we have two important jobs over the coming days and weeks.
Number one is to show concern and empathy. If for no other reason, we are here tonight to tell the Yifrach, Shaar and Frenkel families that your pain is our pain. Your suffering is our suffering. And so long as you don’t sleep at night not knowing where your sons are, we, the South Florida Jewish community are united in our commitment not to rest either until we’ve done all that we can do to make sure the world community remembers your boys and does everything it can do to bring them home. That means making sure that our elected officials know that our community, across denominations, is united and vocal in our concern for these teens. To make sure the media knows that our community won’t be silent and let this story disappear until our boys are brought home. And lest you think that the families are not watching, they are. On a Friday morning conference call with Rabbis from the Rabbinical Council of America, Naftali Frenkel’s mom said that she’s been looking to the American Jewish community for strength during his difficult time. She’s inspired by our unity and she’s inspired by our commitment to bring her son home. She looks to us and we can’t let her down.
But there’s something else that Naftali’s mom asked us to do. We say in Tehillim chapter 20
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we put our trust in God Himself. The IDF is doing their part and the Government of Israel is doing theirs. But our Rabbis teach us that there is nothing more sweet to our creator than to hear the unified prayers of his People. And so I ask all of you. It can be in your car on the way to work. It can be in bed before you turn out the lights. It can be in Synagogue or at the dinner table with your family. But please, pray for our boys. Pray that they come home quickly and safely. Pray that Hashem should protect them and give them strength and health. Pray that God give their families the strength to persevere. And pray that God protects our holy soldiers searching for them. At a moment of almost unprecedented unity in Jewish history, let’s use our power of prayer to storm the gates of heaven and bring our boys home.