Rachelle Fraenkel is a true mother of Israel.
By now the tragic fate of the three kidnapped Israeli boys – Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talmon and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon – is known throughout the world. Their funerals will take place in the hours to come. The people of Israel and Jews everywhere feel the heaviness of deep mourning that is now upon us.
The fallout of these murders will transpire on many levels: the Israeli military response is already underway, memorials and tributes of all sorts will be forthcoming – sorrow, anger, despair, rage – all of these emotions mix together amidst a nation who for eighteen days adopted three sons for whom we searched, worried, prayed, and cried.
Among the powerful, emotional glowing moments that have accompanied this dark chapter of Israel’s ongoing battle for the right to exist, one particular moment stands out for me. Three days after the abduction, 25,000 men, women and children gathered at the Western Wall to pray for a miracle. Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of Naftali, was present along with the other parents. At one point, she turned to a group of young tearful girls surrounding her, and she told them that even if something terrible happens, “you stay strong and you stay united.” When a few days later she was interviewed by David Horovitz of theTimes of Israel, he asked her about that moment, and she explained her feelings:
Prayer is very powerful but it’s not a guarantee for anything. I didn’t know they were taking pictures then [at the Western Wall] but I think the words they caught me saying were, “God doesn’t work for us.” Just because I’m praying with all my heart. It might help. I believe it could help, especially when thousands and millions are praying. They are. But nobody owes me anything. And if tomorrow, God forbid, I’ll hear the worst news, I don’t want my children to feel that where did all my prayers go? It was a group of children I don’t know and I feel a responsibility. God forbid, it shouldn’t be a crisis for them.
That to me was an act of bravery, a moment that should never be forgotten. For me, in these few words, Rachelle Fraenkel reminded us all of the importance of putting our prayers and expectations in perspective, and for preventing the heartbreak of tragedy from being transformed into a crisis of faith.