Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar, Naftali Frenkel
Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar, Naftali Frenkel courtesy of the families

President Reuven Rivlin, together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and the families of Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaar participated in the launch of the Jerusalem Prize for National Unity Thursday morning. 

Frankel, Yifrah, and Shaar were savagely kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists over this past summer. The prize will be awarded annually in a ceremony at the President's Residence on the anniversary of the their deaths. 

The award, presented in partnership with the Gesher organization and the Jerusalem Municipality, will be given to individuals, groups and organizations working to promote national unity.

The prize committee responsible for choosing the recipients will include Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek, Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman; Professor Yuli Tamir; journalist Orly Vilnai; and artist Kobi Oz. 

Rivlin addressed the crowd, noting Israel's remarkable capacity for unity, especially during dark times. 

"During those difficult days, when we all feared for the fate of Natali, Gilad, Eyal, you, their parents, were for us a beacon of resilience. 

"You emanated strength and belief, and instilled confidence in all of us, and encouraged us. We discovered within us, a tremendous power of giving. 

"Different  opinions and views, individual interests were all put aside as everyone joined in – with dedication, sensitivity, and understanding – all working together with the understanding that Natali, Gilad, Eyal, were all our sons." 

"Just as we became one in the efforts to bring them home, so as one, we were shaken when we discovered their fate.  To the outside observer, this may have seemed to be a circumstantial, one-time phenomenon. But we know that this great spirit of mutual responsibility is no passing phase."

The President then spoke of the importance of continuing to emphasize unity as a national value.    

"Specifically, in the shadow of the events of last summer, and inspired by that spirit of mutual responsibility which we witnessed, we must continue to encourage all those working to maintain and strengthen that sense, that feeling, of unity and commitment.  The Jerusalem Prize for National Unity reminds us what is acceptable, what is desired, what is appropriate. In awarding this prize, we want to embolden and amplify the positive voices in our society, and focus on the good."  

All three families expressed their gratitude to Rivlin, before each of the boys' fathers also spoke.  

Uri Yifrach, the father of Eyal said, "Eyal, together with Naftali and Gilad, with their murder, brought a different spirit to the people.  I have no doubt that that the souls of the boys led us to a different place, and we the families, feel a special commitment to the people, to the memory of the boys, and of that very difficult period that we went through." 

"There is no place like the President's Residence, the president of the people, who unites the whole people, to launch such a special initiative, calling for national unity.  We all, from this place, call for unity, for love, because, 'we have within us love, and it will win out'."

Ofir Shaar, the father of Gilad, said, "This is a living memorial. It is special and vibrant, and relates all communities, and all people to inspire a spirit of unity. We know that this spirit has been flowing throughout the public, since what we endured, but occasionally need to place it in the spotlight, and this is the essence of this award: to nurture the values we felt then; mutual respect, tolerance, a new language that allowed us to move forward. I appeal to the elected officials, and the public itself, to seize this opportunity with both hands, and join in this endeavor for the unity of Israel."

Avraham (Avi) Frankel, the father of Naftali said, "During the days of the search, of despair, doubts and worry, days full of holiness, we saw mutual support, caring, encouragement, and good-will. We received strength from across the nation, at home and abroad, we felt we were not alone, and that all the people stood with us this through this awful time." 

"And today we are here to maintain the same essence, to preserve the spirit of those days. The award is called the Jerusalem Prize for National Unity in Israel, and no one expresses better than you, Mr. President, the centrality of Jerusalem – throughout your life, and today your actions as President, symbolize the unity of the nation. We are honored to be here to launch the prize."

Nir Barkat concluded the launch, saying, "There is no one who was not moved by the exceptional unifying power of the families of the three boys. The warm connection built during the week of mourning, led us to create together the Jerusalem Prize for Unity in Israel, which we are launching today." 

"I thank the President who so expresses the unity of the nation, and the connection between all its parts, and his contribution to the promotion of this important award."