Mother of Kidnapped Teen Makes Emotional Address to Knesset
Bat-Galim Sha'ar addressed the Israeli Knesset Wednesday, in an emotional speech to urge the Israeli government to keep all resources trained on finding her son Gilad (16), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19) despite a recent decision to scale back the wide-ranging IDF operation. (See full text at the end of this article.)
Sha'ar began by expressing gratitude for the outpouring of love and support the mothers have received from the larger Israeli and Jewish community in general, as well as the many visits by Knesset MKs.
She cited the midrashic text about the Biblical Rachel, whom God listened to, according to tradition, when making the decision to eventually return the exiled Jewish people to their land. Rachel received this request while she was crying over her lost and exiled children, "sons she does not have."
Sha'ar then addressed the Israeli government, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet in particular.
On Tuesday, the Security Cabinet decided to scale down the IDF operations against Hamas and focus on locating the teens, concentrating on arrests that would aid in gathering intel about the three.
The decision, which was initially denied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, allegedly was to fend off international criticism over the IDF crackdown on Hamas over the abduction, as well as concerns about the upcoming Muslim holiday of Ramadan.
The announcement surfaced hours after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) publicly assailed Israel for over 90 minutes during a session in Geneva, just before Rachel Frenkel - Naftali's mother - was about to speak.
The Israeli government also reached a deal with Palestinian Arab hunger strikers shortly after the announcement was made, allegedly after holding talks with the terrorists and with Ramadan in mind. The full details of the deal will be released later, officials said, once the strikers are released from hospitals where they are being treated.
Sha'ar sharply criticized these "irresponsible decisions" in her speech, saying that "time would tell" whether the move to stop "standing up against Israel's enemies" is a mistake and urging MKs to "transcend political divisions" to push for a reconsideration of those decisions.
This is the full text of her speech:
I come to you today as a woman to woman, mother to mother, from the bottom of my heart.
Day after day and with a breaking heart, I want to see Gilad alive and at home.
I may be heartbroken, but I am not broken.
I want to share with you that in these difficult times, we derive our strength mainly from the support and love directed to us all the time - across the Israeli spectrum in Israel. We say prayers and we sing songs.
One of the most touching songs, one of the most sensitive and painful songs, is the song of [Biblical] matriarch Rachel to her children (from Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah - ed.):
"A loud voice is heard / wailing bitterly / Rachel, weeping for her children / inconsolable for the children she does not have."
[ Editor's note - in Hebrew: "Kol b'rama nishma/N'hi be'hi tamrurim/Rahel m'bakeh al baneiha/mei'ana lhi'baheh al baneiha ki ainena." ]
Our sages tell us that many great people in Israel prayed [in Heaven - from the midrash - ed.] for the safety of the people of Israel, God only listened to Rachel's prayers. When she was young, she gave her sister Leah her signs of identification to Jacob, so as not to embarrass her [and thus giving up her marriage out of consideration of others - ed.]. Rachel did something extraordinary; she was caught in a bad situation, but she transcended her circumstances for something larger. For this, God promised her - and only her - that the Jewish people would return to its borders.
It turns out that life throws at us too situations that we need to transcend by ourselves.
We need to look beyond our own pain, to let go of that which burns within us; we are required to see before our eyes the people of Israel, the IDF, the security forces, the government of Israel standing up against its enemies, and the hidden mission God has brought before us.
I have full confidence in the system, but only if I know that Israel is doing everything to find my son, as well as Naftali and Eyal.
I got up this morning, opened the news, and was in shock. Prime Minister Netanyahu authorized a deal with terrorist prisoners.
Could it be? Really?
Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali are being held by Hamas terrorist kidnappers - and the Prime Minister seeks to appease them, to please them?
If the Prime Minister knows the identity of the kidnappers, we must act in any way possible to pressure them to bring the boys home alive: to stop funds, to worsen conditions for prisoners, to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas will then know that it is not worth it to kidnap Jewish children.
Ramadan is coming. How is it possible that our people live in uncertainty and anxiety over the boys while the Palestinian people celebrate Ramadan? That Israel is forced to live with a lack of security, while the Palestinian people get to live their daily lives?
Mr. Prime Minister, internal security staff, you have become confused. Making an agreement with the hunger strikers is a serious mistake.
We do everything to keep the unity of the people and understand the great responsibility at this time.
We feel beyond our own pain, that there is much at stake, not all of which we understand yet.
People of Israel, unite in pain and in prayer for the return of our abducted sons.
But we will not accept the irresponsible actions of decision makers. Reaching an agreement with the hunger strikers at this time is irresponsible to the people of Israel.
Precious Knesset members, you hold the reigns of power. You are also here - all together -transcending political divisions to share an important cause. As we work together, you give us, the mothers, more strength.
MKs, you have one important task during these difficult times - to rise above political differences and work towards bringing the boys - Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali - home, safe.
Prime Minister and Cabinet members, we will test what you have done through the results. You say that you have information that they are alive; it is your duty to bring them back alive.
I hope that Rachel's merits, and the merits of unity, will grace us - that our prayers to the Master of the World are heard for the sons we don't have with us - and that our sons will be returned home.