More than a million and a half people participated in International Jewish Unity Day commemorations around the globe on Wednesday (June 1), marking the second anniversary of the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teens, Naftali Frenkel, Gil-ad Sha’er and Eyal Yifrach.
Now in its second year, Jewish Unity Day is an initiative of the Jerusalem Unity Prize created by the families of the three boys together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Gesher. Unity Day and the Jerusalem Unity Prize are designed to bring together all elements of the global Jewish community to demonstrate the sense of national collectiveness which defined the Jewish people in the wake of the boys’ kidnappings.
Global events were planned for 25 countries and include programs in over 100 cities with an expected participation of 750,000 people. Unity Day is working with 160 different partner organizations to coordinate the 200 different events in schools, synagogues, community centers and parks.
In Israel, an expected 850,000 participated in official government, school and private events on Unity Day, June 1st, highlighted by the award ceremony for the Jerusalem Unity Prize at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
In his comments at the ceremony, President Rivlin said, “The Jerusalem Unity Prize and Unity Day allow us to salute the togetherness which exists in society- both out of choice and out of tragedy.” The award salutes the accomplishments of individuals and initiatives who have prioritized unity within the Jewish community.
This year’s winners include the Global Schools Twinning Project, an initiative of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Together, Hapoel Katamon Sports Club which uses athletics to bring together diverse groups within Jerusalem society, Kesher Yehudi (The Jewish Connection), which works to bridge social gaps between Israel’s secular and haredi populations and the youth programs of Bnei Akiva together with the Noar Haoved V’Halomed and Dror Yisrael, which unite youth of diverse backgrounds in cultural and social programming.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the Chair of the Prize Committee said, “The Jerusalem Unity Prize was created to promote the value of togetherness among the Jewish people. The 2016 winners of the Jerusalem Unity Prize demonstrate the very best of Jewish unity through their work to bridge gaps and strengthen ties among the Jewish people. I am confident that each of this year’s winners will continue their impressive work as ambassadors for Jerusalem and the Jewish world and will create a brighter future for the Jewish people.”
The families of the three boys said, “We are deeply appreciate of the level of support that we have received in enabling unity to become the lasting legacy of our sons. While the tragedy of their deaths can never be lessened, the fact that their memories are helping to build a better and strong Jewish world is deeply inspiring.”Hana Levi Julian