Torah educator Rachelle Fraenkel whose teenage son, Naftali, was kidnapped and murdered along with two friends in the summer of 2014, spoke last week at an event marking 6 years since the abduction, saying: “We lost the priceless sons, but Hamas’s curse was void because this nation is connected to the source of blessing.”
“Hamas’s curse has become an abundant blessing,” Fraenkel said at the event, which took place at the Oz veGaon preserve in Gush Etzion, established on the night the three boys’ murder became known.
At her son’s funeral, Rachelle Fraenkel recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, and the chief rabbi of Israel said “Amen.” It was the first time the Kaddish was recited in Israel by an Orthodox woman in a public ceremony, before the cameras.
The event opened with remarks by Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, who told of the night when it was decided to ascend to the preserve, which had been abandoned and neglected and had even served as a venue of criminal acts by Arabs from the neighboring villages.
“We were amazed anew every day by the greatness of our people. People came here from every part of the Land, to express solidarity, to relieve their pain and especially, the wonderful people of Oz veGaon, who continue to accompany us even after six years,” Katsover said, and read the long list of contributors and supporters for the ongoing maintenance of the preserve, from people of the neighboring communities and regional councils to groups of youths from all part of the Land, students of the Zionist Midrasha.
“The results of all the good that they have bestowed on the preserve – you see before you now, a preserve bustling with life, with events, study groups, seminars, art workshops with Avital Sharansky, and a baby born this week at the preserve. Six years of bustling, Zionist, value-based life in the spirit of Gush Etzion,” Katsover said.
Fraenkel described the excitement that she feels every time she visits the preserve, finding there new activities, more trails, another creative idea and more liveliness. At the ceremony, she focused her remarks on the connection between the effect of the tragic event on the people in Israel and the Torah portion of Balak, read during the summer, when the magician Balaam sought to curse Israel but produced blessings instead.
“During the 18 days of anxiety, tension, searching, the attempt to remain focused and the huge embrace and encouragement and prayers and energy that maintained us, the mayor of Nazareth Illit came to our house one day and said, ‘You have no idea what is happening in Israel. If Hamas had known that this is what would happen, they would never have done it,’ Fraenkel said.
“Someone came to place a curse on us and indeed, did curse us, since we lost our priceless sons, but he did not succeed with the curse, because this nation is connected to the source of blessing and it is entirely a blessing of abundant life. Every curse that they intended grew into a blessing of abundance, and one spot for this blessing is Oz veGaon, a place that continues in liveliness and influence and the ripples spread very far indeed,” Fraenkel said.
She also spoke of an attribute of our forefather Abraham, whose “good eye” sought goodness even in the wicked city of Sodom – compared with Balaam, whose “evil eye” was seeking the cracks through which it would be possible to curse a nation that was blessed with miracles, redemption and wonders as it was wandering in the wilderness.
“The discourse of unity is not a cliché or vain hope, despite the fact that the world appears fragmented; it is a practical tool for life,” Fraenkel said.
“In a problematic situation, when it is possible to be so critical, it is important to find the good, to connect with it, to love it, to increase it and then let it grow and look at reality,” Fraenkel said. She quoted from the Haftorah, which views the destruction of the forts in a vision of in an era of peace and serenity when there will be no need for them.
“We are not there yet. We are still far away and every moment that we sit here in serenity and calm we owe to the soldiers who attend to this place, this region and this land with dedication. But this place is not a fort, it is not even a town. It is a nature preserve, a place where people camp, have picnics, it is a place where you see normal life in the Land of Israel. It is a lively, joyful and normal place. It is the connection to this ground, to be real. To be at home. Oz veGaon is good for Gush Etzion, the nation of Israel and the entire world.”