Throughout their ordeal, the parents of the three teenagers – who hail from Elad (near Petach Tikva), Talmon (east of Modiin), and Nof Ayalon (near Modiin) – have conducted themselves with dignity, faith and love in the face of the media onslaught.
The Frankel family, which made aliyah from New York nearly 20 years ago, praised Naftali as “an amazing and sweet kid, a combination of serious and fun.” His mother, Racheli, said, “All the work that is being done by the Israeli security forces, the support of the American embassy in Tel Aviv, and the waves of prayers and support – we just request that this continue.”
According to his aunt, Naftali was heading home a week ago Thursday evening in order to study for an end-of-school-year biology exam. She said, “We feel like we’ve been receiving a big hug from everyone. I know that everyone is doing everything possible in Israel and outside. It’s a big help.”
Nof Ayalon is a religious, agricultural yishuv that is home to more than 400 families and is located amid the pastoral beauty of the biblical Ayalon Valley. A resident who sits on the local town council told Israeli television, “As a rule this is a quiet, close-knit community that doesn’t seek any kind of publicity whatsoever. However, we are now obligated to show the world who we are and the kinds of people who live here. The residents of Nof Ayalon are providing round-the-clock support to the Frankel family.”
On Tuesday the families met at the Frankel home in Nof Ayalon for the first time since the abduction. During their meeting, Netanyahu told them by phone, “We’re doing everything in order to find Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. In the field, we’re making a tremendous operational and intelligence effort for this purpose. In the name of Israel’s citizens, I would like to strengthen your spirits.”
Meanwhile, Jews around the world have been conducting prayer vigils for the three missing teenagers in synagogues, schools and community centers.
Last Sunday Israeli actress Moran Atias, who splits her time between the U.S. and Israel, staged an impromptu protest in Manhattan. Atias stood in the middle of Times Square holding up a handmade placard seeking to rally support for the teenagers. A video of her protest showed passersby paying little attention. But Jewish and non-Jewish social media activists, through Facebook and other social media networks, have been successful in securing people from all walks of life to help keep the teenagers’ plight in the forefront of public attention.
The debate over whether young Israelis should be hitchhiking at any hour of the day (the three teens were hitchhiking their way from Gush Etzion back to their homes in Central Israel when they were abducted) has prompted an Israeli start-up company, NowForce, to upgrade an emergency app that allows users to alert authorities in real time in cases of attempted kidnappings.
The NowForce app features an SOS button. When a user presses it, the NowForce reporting center alerts responders in the area – police, local security officials, and United Hatzalah – to an emergency. The state-of-the-art app displays a map showing where the reported incident occurred and information on how to travel to the site. A version of NowForce’s emergency response software is already being used by first responders in several U.S. towns and cities.