There is an oasis of song, dance and prayer a few feet from the Fraenkel home. It is a gathering place for Nof Ayaloners to embrace the Fraenkel family, to remind them that it is our shared son who has been kidnapped. It is what the yishuv refers to as the Tent of Learning, as lectures and prayers have taken place in this venue since the boys were kidnapped. A wicker bookcase, groaning with prayer books, takes center-stage under the red canopy. To the right, inches from the Fraenkel home, a glass door refrigerator boasts bottles upon bottles of sodas, there to ostensibly quench the thirst of those who visit the tent from far afield or next door; for the guardian police and visiting politicians, for friends of the family and neighbors who gather under the canopy, under the unrelenting Middle East sun.
An hour before Havdalah, as a cerulean blue Crayola sky fades into dusk, two hundred women congregate under the red canopy. They come from all corners of the yishuv, walking past police officers who’ve arrived early for their Saturday night shift. Perhaps out of deference for the family, for our community, one officer sports a white silk kippa and a thoughtful greeting of Shabbat Shalom to the stream of women walking past him. Neighbors rush to bring extra plastic chairs that quickly fill the Tent of Learning and spill out into the street. Younger girls sit on the pavement. A small boy in a wheel chair joins the crowd. The bright lights in the red canopy create a halo effect, an aura of serenity. Soon, the soft decibels of song gather momentum and energy, the last vestiges of the Sabbath peace milked for the week ahead. Racheli’s family sits among us.
I watch young girls with eyes closed in fervent prayer, tears rolling down their cheek, beseech the gates of mercy. If prayers have wings, the red canopy is aloft, channeling the pain into melody, from the deepest of places. The crowd is visibly moved. Racheli, with a child on her lap, joins us in song, smiling softly at the army of support surrounding her.
Throughout the week, in the midst of interviews, an address to the U.N. council, a visit to the Knesset and numerous other activities, we’ve watched Racheli, a beacon of strength, model faith, patience, motherhood and resilience to the entire Nation of Israel – in the face of a mother’s worst nightmare. Indeed, more than a few mothers on the yishuv have admitted to the use of sleeping aides to get through the darkest of nights but it’s a nod or a smile from Racheli that provides fuel for our days.
When the cerulean turns to a deep lead, the signs posted both in front of and across from the Fraenkel home, attesting to our yishuv’s unity and support for the kidnapped boys, fade into the night. The women rise and chairs scrape the road as a path is made for Mr. Fraenkel to enter the red canopy. The Havdalah candle is held up high as Naftali’s father recites the words: “Blessed are you, our Lord, who separates between the light and the dark…I will trust G-d and not be afraid, for my strong faith and song of praise for G-d will be my salvation.”
As the Sabbath light wanes from our grasp, small fragrant leaves picked off a myrtle tree hugging the Fraenkel home, are distributed among the women. It is this extra spice, an aroma from heaven and a lingering metaphysical token of our Shabbat souls, that will accompany us into the week ahead.
It’s Sunday afternoon and ahead of the support rally planned in Rabin for this evening, the yishuv youngsters have much to do. There are special T- shirts that have been made to be distributed shortly as Nof Ayalon marches in solidarity with the Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrach families. There are buses to order, placards to be made, trains to ride. The work is hardly done. The three mothers have expressly wished for the nation to join them in Rabin Square. Racheli saying: “And everyone wants to do something to bring them home. So we want to see the entire Israeli society with us on Sunday, for everyone to be together.”
Let’s band together. Tonight, June 27th. Seven-thirty. Rabin Square. Let’s not disappoint them.