Speaking for many Israelis, Rev. David Neuhaus SJ lamented the discovery of the murder of three Jewish teenagers who had been abducted while hitchhiking. He said, "There is immense sadness for what happened yesterday with regards to the killing of the three teens. We are close to their families and friends, let us pray that the Lord will help them to live, to move forward, and comfort them in this great pain."
Father Neuhaus is the Patriarchal Vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and expressed the condolences of Israeli Christians over the murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel: three Jewish schoolboys who disappeared near Hebron. Israeli security forces found their bodies on June 30 in a field near the village of Halhul. The three young boys had attended a rabbinical school in a Jewish settlement.
Israeli political leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have attributed the triple murder to the Hamas terrorist organization. During the search operations following the boys' abduction, 5 Palestinians were killed and 400 arrested. "Now", says Fr. Neuhaus "there is also a growing fear of the reaction. We live in a cycle of violence that has lasted for decades and we fear the price that the Palestinian people will perhaps pay."
He continued, "We hope and pray that the leaders of the State of Israel respond with wisdom and vision of the future."
According to Fr. Neuhaus, the new spiral of violence that seems to envelop the Holy Land makes Pope Francis' appeals for peace and reconciliation all the more urgent.
"The Pope", stressed Fr. Neuhaus "never said that peace has already arrived. We are not deluded, we know that violence still has dominance and what the P ope did was the attempt to suggest and open alternatives to all. We need to pray that this situation will not last permanently."
Israel's Shin Bet Security Agency is believed to have concluded that the three teens were murdered shortly after hitching a ride. It is believed that they were shot in the back seat of a vehicle in the believe that they were safe. A phone call from one of the abducted teens to report the abduction is believed to have prompted the triggermen to kill all three. The boys were buried in field approximately two miles from Halhul. Once they committed the crime, the criminals went into hiding. Suspects Marwam Quasma and Amar Abu Aisha, both of whom are Palestinian men, are now fugitives from Israeli justice. Both are wellknown Hamas operatives.
Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that Hamas "would pay" for the murder of the three teens. Fulfilling that vow, the Israeli defense forces launched 38 air strikes on the Gaza Strip on July 1.