Click photo to download. Caption: On June 25, Jews gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City to pray for the release of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
By Deborah Fineblum/JNS.org
JERUSALEM—With their pictures posted on countless Facebook pages, and widely published in newspapers and on websites, the faces of the three missing Israeli teens have been etched deep into the global Jewish consciousness and individual Jewish hearts. But is there something quintessentially Jewish about the response to the crime of kidnapping?
Especially in Israel, where parents now watch their teens with equal parts gratitude and concern, the kidnapping is highly personal. Life-size pictures hang from storefronts, the boys’ features fly by on the sides of buses, and an increasing percentage of the passengers inside those buses have their Tehillim (Psalms) books out. They are reading certain psalms such as No. 121, which centuries of Jews have turned to as an appeal for divine intervention in times of crisis. Indeed, it appears that the Israeli public’s focus on prayer might be at an all-time high.
In Jewish tradition, the crime of kidnapping is considered a violation of the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:13). But when what has been stolen is one’s son, the threat is of course personal than when one’s ox disappears. Untold thousands of Jews have been captured throughout Jewish history and often held for ransom, their captors well aware that Jewish communities will go to extraordinary lengths to redeem captives.
“Redeeming the captive is among our most treasured 613 mitzvot,” says Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, Del., who was in Israel co-leading a community tour amid the kidnapping crisis. Whether it’s Abraham redeeming his nephew, Lot, or Lord Rothschild redeeming the Jews of Syria in the 1800s, “Jews have gathered their resources to free other Jews,” Beals says.
But for most Israelis, personally redeeming the three boys is a distant dream. Instead, they support the boys and their families with an unofficial formula of prayer and unity.
Click photo to download. Caption: On June 25, hundreds of Jews gather at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City to pray for the release of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
When Jews need to engage in very serious prayer, the Kotel (Western Wall) is often their destination. That is exactly where 17-year-old Hodaya Wienberg of Jerusalem went on one recent evening. Her brother is a soldier stationed in the West Bank. “I’m here so he will come back fast and safety,” she says.
Does Wienberg have a hunch that God is listening? “Of course he’s listening,” she says with a grin. “But maybe he’s looking for a better time to answer.”