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