newsOctober 7

Ten years since 'Operation Protective Edge'

‘All the feelings came back to us’: Father marks 10 years since Hamas murdered his son

Terrorists killed Naftali Fraenkel, along with two other teens, triggering a 50-day war..

Israelis lighted candles in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square as they mourned the deaths of teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Sha'ar, who were abducted and murdered by Hamas terrorists, July 6, 2014. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Israelis lighted candles in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square as they mourned the deaths of teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Sha'ar, who were abducted and murdered by Hamas terrorists, July 6, 2014. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

“Back then, Hamas did not look for Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach or Gilad Shaar, they looked for a Jew, for Jews to kill. That’s exactly what they did on October 7,” Avraham Fraenkel told JNS on Thursday, a day after he marked a decade since terrorists murdered his son near Hebron.

“The scale was much larger but it came from the same source. All the feelings came back to us,” he added.

Ten years ago, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Yifrach, 19, and Shaar, 16, went missing from a bus stop outside Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in Judea. After a three-week search, their bodies were found. Their abduction and murder set off a chain reaction resulting in “Operation Protective Edge,” the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014.

“There is a new layer of sadness a decade later. I am not sure that even now I understand completely what happened,” Avraham Fraenkel said. “Life goes on. Being a bereaved father is part of me, it’s part of who I am, but it is not the thing that defines me.” 

Fraenkel and his wife, Rachelle, have six more children, some of whom have married. Their youngest is about to enter Mekor Haim, the same high school that Naftali was hitchhiking home from when he was kidnapped.

“Back in 2014, for 18 days, we were hoping to find our boys and wanted to believe they were still alive, held hostage, that’s what we were told was the goal,” said Fraenkel. “So after October 7, we thought we could help others but it’s now been over 250 days.

“Like a lot of Israelis, we have gone to many funerals and shivahs [mourning gatherings]. There’s a few families with whom we are in contact,” he added.

Fraenkel refused to weigh in on the political and security establishment’s policies ahead of Oct. 7.

“We should judge according to the information they had at that time and not what we know now,” he said. “Was the writing on the wall? What were the chances of this happening?”

Solidarity and unity

Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog presented awards for the Jerusalem Unity Prize 2024, an initiative spearheaded by the families of the three slain teenagers and Minister of Economy and Industry Nir Barkat, in a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, the Knesset approved the final reading of the National Unity Day Law, 2024, legislation in memory of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad promoting social cohesion in Israel and among the Jewish people.

In January, an Israeli drone strike on a Hamas office in Beirut killed top terror chief Saleh al-Arouri, who is believed to have planned the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis.

“It’s good that it finally happened. Justice was served. He was part of the group that commanded terrorism in Judea and Samaria and I am glad that he is no longer on this planet,” Fraenkel told JNS.

After 10 Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend and an additional soldier passed away from wounds sustained during fighting last week, Fraenkel said the grief is very personal.

“Everyone takes the loss of a family member differently. The only thing I can say is that it takes time. I always quote my wife, Rachelle: ‘We can feel sorrow, but we do not have to become it,’” Fraenkel said. 

His message to bereaved families and relatives of the captives is one of solidarity and unity.

“We support them, we’re with them and we give them an enormous hug. We pray for their loved ones to come back soon,” Fraenkel said. 

“What we all want is for the hostages and the bodies of the deceased to be returned and for Hamas to no longer rule in Gaza. It’s easier said than done but that is the message,” he said.

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