NEW YORK, The parents of two of the three Israeli teens who were murdered by Hamas last summer preceding Operation Protective Edge spoke at a UJA-Federation of New York event on Thursday celebrating the Jerusalem Unity Prize.
Racheli Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, z”l, and Ofir Shaer, the father of Gilad Shaer, z”l, joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Emeritus Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, in a discussion, moderated by The Forward’s Jane Eisner, to discuss how the tragedy led to the creation of the Jerusalem Unity Prize.
The prize was conceived in partnership with the families of the three boys and the Jerusalem-based organization Gesher as a way to perpetuate the spirit of unity across Israel and around the world during the days following the boys’ kidnapping.
“The support the world has shown us has been incredible,” said Fraenkel. “During those tense days I felt a sense of unity that transcended my anxiety and the desperation of the search for my son. People called from all over Israel and, then, from all corners of the world.”
“After our son’s tragic murder, the most important decision my family made was to open our hearts,” said Shaer. “We feel an obligation to ensure that the personal pain that we have experienced be channeled for the betterment of people all over the world and this is what we all hope this prize will accomplish.”
“The unity that has developed from this tragedy is one of the most important and empowering things I’ve seen in the last decade,” added Barkat, who has been one of the driving forces behind the Unity Prize. “If Hamas had known how its act of terror would bring us together, they wouldn’t have dared kidnap our boys. Unity is a central value in our identity as a people and this prize will afford us the chance to advance these ideals across Israel and around the world.”
The Jerusalem Unity Prize will be presented in three separate categories, each with a prize of up to 100,000 NIS ($25,000). A committee chaired by Barkat, the parents of the three boys, and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora will choose the winners.
Eric. S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York said: “These past months have shown us how well we bear each other up in the worst of times. The Jerusalem Unity Prize, which was developed by the families of the three boys— together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Gesher, and with support from UJA-Federation and others, reminds us to find common ground and raise each other up, not just in crisis — but always.”