Griev­ing fam­i­lies come to­gether.

Forward Magazine - - Front Page - By Sigal Sa­muel Con­tact Sigal Sa­muel sa­muel@for­ward.com at

The fam­i­lies of a mur­dered Is­raeli teen and a mur­dered Pales­tinian teen are draw­ing com­fort from an un­ex­pected source: each other.

Yishai Fraenkel, whose 16-yearold nephew Naf­tali Fraenkel was slain along with teenagers Gi­lad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, picked up the phone on July 6 to of­fer his con­do­lences to Hus­sein Abu Khdeir, whose 16-year-old son Mo­hammed Abu Khdeir was burned alive in an ap­par­ent re­venge killing by Jewish ex­trem­ists.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who reached out to Hus­sein Abu Khdeir to ex­press pain at the “bar­baric” mur­der of his son and to en­cour­age him to speak with Yishai Fraenkel, called the phone call be­tween the two men an “emo­tional and spe­cial con­ver­sa­tion.”

Yishai Fraenkel had con­demned the Abu Khdeir mur­der in a state­ment, say­ing, “The life of an Arab is equally pre­cious to that of a Jew. Blood is blood, and mur­der is mur­der, whether that mur­der is Jewish or Arab.”

Just hours be­fore the phone call, two Pales­tini­ans from the Gush Etzion area showed up at the Fraenkels’ Nof Ayalon home in a visit or­ga­nized by Gush Etzion re­li­gious coun­cil chair Rabbi Rafi Ostroff.

Asked why they had come, one Pales­tinian, who de­scribed him­self as a mem­ber of a be­reaved fam­ily, ex­plained, “The sit­u­a­tion will only im­prove when we learn to deal with each other’s pain and stop the anger against one an­other. Our task is to give strength to the fam­ily and also to take a step to­ward my na­tion’s lib­er­a­tion. We be­lieve that the way to our lib­er­a­tion is through the hearts of Jews.”

He later said that the visit went very well from his per­spec­tive. “They re­ceived us very, very nicely. The mother [Rachel Fraenkel] was in­cred­i­ble.”

“I see be­fore me a Jewish fam­ily that has lost a son open­ing the door to me,” he added. “That’s not ob­vi­ous. It touched my heart and my na­tion.”

The Pales­tinian visi­tors also men­tioned an ini­tia­tive spear­headed by Jews and Mus­lims to trans­form July 15 — a Jewish fast day known as 17 Tam­muz, which co­in­cides with Ra­madan — into a joint fast day for peo­ple of both re­li­gions who wish to ex­press their de­sire to end vi­o­lence in the re­gion.

In a sep­a­rate show of sol­i­dar­ity, Jewish anti-racism or­ga­ni­za­tion Tag Meir hired char­tered buses to bring over 350 Is­raelis to visit the Abu Khdeirs’ mourn­ing tent in East Jerusalem on July 8. The fam­ily wel­comed the planned con­do­lence call.

Is­rael’s top brass also made ef­forts to reach out to the Pales­tinian fam­ily. Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu phoned Hus­sein Abu Khdeir to prom­ise that his son’s mur­der­ers would be pros­e­cuted for their “de­spi­ca­ble” crime. A visit from for­mer pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres was post­poned af­ter the Is­rael Po­lice and Shin Bet se­cu­rity ser­vice ad­vised against it.

But other govern­ment of­fi­cials — in­clud­ing the La­bor party’s Shelly Yachi­movich, Amir Peretz and Avra­ham Burg — were wel­comed at the fam­ily home in Shuafat in East Jerusalem.

GETTY IM­AGES

COUR­TESY OF TAG MEIR

United in Grief: Over 350 Jewish Is­raelis con­soled the Abu Khdeir fam­ily at their mourn­ing tent in East Jerusalem on July 8.

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