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Our Heavy Hearts Are with the Families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach

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On Friday we published a piece about three young men. Three victims of a terrible crime in Israel; innocent students traveling home from school for the weekend were kidnapped by Hamas militants and held to be used as pawns.

Today we are devastated to report that Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, have been found, murdered, in the West Bank. Our hearts go out to them, their families and everyone whose lives they touched. They will not be forgotten and they will be dearly missed.

Much will be said in the news in the coming days. Condolences will be offered, as will opinions and political stances. Details will be picked apart and dissected. Some will try to assess fault. It will become difficult to watch. For some, it might be easy forget that these were merely young teenagers, with families and friends who loved them. They were not merely “Israelis,” “students” or “victims.” They were all these things, but they were so much more than that. They were people. This is how we need to remember them out of respect to their lives.

Don’t let any details and political stances distract from the real story: innocent boys, loving and admirable boys, were taken from their families and murdered in cold blood in the prime of their lives.

We need to discuss this tragedy with our children and pause and reflect on what this all means. The most important thing of all is to set aside the chatter and the debate that is sure to come, and see right to the heart of the story; to remember that this is not just something happening in the news, but something terrible and vicious that happened to real people in the real world.

It was our hope when we published the initial piece where we shared these boys’ stories to raise awareness that it may engage families and help bring about resolution to the horrible events. While the situation ended in tragedy, this does not mean we can shy away from talking about it. Horrible, things can happen in the world. We cannot avoid this. But we become weaker if we simply ignore them. We grow stronger by facing them together.

Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were young men who believed in something. They were passionate students who strove to make the world a better place by helping others and searching for truth and meaning.

Nothing has changed their mission. Nothing should change their mission.

If we let their story end at their death, we fail to honor their lives. We must deal with the pain of their loss, but we must also heed their call to better ourselves and the world we live in. These boys stood for something so much more. This is what we must remember now. We need to talk about actualizing our potentials, about growing as people and committing to our fellow man.

One of the best ways to deal with this tragedy and to venerate the memory of these young men is through service. As fellow human beings, let us take action with our hearts and try to spread a message of self improvement and charity. Let us imitate the lives of these students by teaching their message; let us support their families by loving ours.

It was, of course, our deep hope that Eyal, Gilad and Naftali would be brought home safely to their loved ones and to all of us. Tragically this was not the case. But we must keep them in our hearts and minds. They will live on as long as we don’t forget them, and as long as we carry on their mission of love and selflessness.

Their lives have been tragically taken, but their message in life, and what they stood for cannot be. Those are ours to care for.

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