April 21, 2024
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Last Erev Shabbos: An Open Letter from Nof Ayalon

Jonathan Paley’s parents are David and Felice Paley from Teaneck. Chaim Zvi Senter, raised in Teaneck, is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Aderes Hatorah in Ye­rushalayim. This letter was submitted for publication by Honey Senter, a long time Teaneck resident.

To our Dear Friends and Family,

As our community of Nof Ayalon prepares to bring in Shabbos, now the second Shabbos without Naftali, we thought to share with you some of the events and emotions our family has ex­perienced. Without any doubt, it has been one of the most challenging weeks Sarah and I have endured. Yet it has also been a week during which our belief in the goodness of others and the power of Community, with a capital C, has been renewed and strengthened.

…I landed in Ben Gurion a week ago today and as I always do, called Sarah from the runway. I immediately could tell that something was wrong. She prepared me by asking for me to stay calm as she slowly explained the situa­tion unfolding. She described the initial shock of the community as word spread about the kidnapping, about the eupho­ria that swept through the chat list as a WhatsApp rumor, soon after proven to be false, described the rescue of the boys and their freedom. …

One of the aspects of Yishuv life is the immediacy of the dissemina­tion of information, usually thankful­ly for good. Unfortunately, on that day, the terrible and harrowing news trave­led like wildfire among our neighbors and friends. The Frenkel family is well known throughout the community. There are three Frenkel brothers and two Frenkel sisters in Nof Ayalon (two brothers married two sisters) and the family is active in many important in­itiatives. Personally, Sarah knows the mom, Rachelli better than I know the dad, Avi. Leah is friendly with Nafta­li’s sister, Ayala and they are teammates on the girls’ basketball team. Since they live in Shlav Bet and we are in Shlav Aleph, we don’t cross paths often but we certainly know each other and share many, many friends.

Immediately, the Yishuv sprang into action, with the emergency response team preparing accordingly. The Rav encouraged everyone to bring in Shab­bos 30 minutes early and Tehillim were said throughout the night. It was a sur­real Shabbos with everyone desperate for information and updates. In some ways, Shabbos was a respite, as we all turned our focus on our Tefillos rather than our cellphones. Whispers could be heard “Is there any news? Were they found? Are they okay?” But no one had any news that we all did not have.

Shabbos ended and we learned about the brave operations initiated by Tzahal to destroy the Hamas infra­structure of Judea and Samaria and find the boys. But no real news of their wel­fare. We had to gingerly field questions from the kids such as Mali’s question of Sarah: “Do you think Naftali is hun­gry?” Or Avi asking if they will be able to watch the World Cup? We answered, as I’m sure many of you have responded to questions of your own, that we can hope and pray that Hashem is watching over the boys and making sure that they have what they need. And that our tef­illot and recitation of Tehillim are the best means for us to reach out to them and wish them well…

As the days have gone by, we have anticipated that “Today will be the day”, but sadly, we are still awaiting the “Mizvak” (radio update) that describes the joyous return of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. I used to wonder why Israelis were always so interested in the hourly updates, shutting everything off as the radio would blare some random news story. But now I understand a lot bet­ter. We are all glued to our cellphones, every few minutes checking for any up­dates or information about their where­abouts and welfare. Like you, we are thirsting for any news about the boys. Anything, just to let us know that they are okay somewhere…

Since last Motzei Shabbat, the media hordes have descended on Nof Ayalon. News crews, satellite trucks, camera­men and reporters spread out through­out the community trying to get morsels of information from us about Naftali and his family. We were instructed to avoid talking to reporters and to direct them to the point man in the communi­ty who has been responsible for all com­munication with the media. Everyone has cooperated magnificently, fierce­ly protecting the family and their pri­vacy. A round the clock sentry was es­tablished in front of the Frenkel home, preventing entry by unwanted intruders and trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy for them in the midst of the media circus that sits right outside their front door.

…However, what has been made known to the world as well is our com­munity’s cohesion. Our instinctive need to rally around the family, providing all of the meals to the family, providing youngsters to clean their home, and cre­ating literally a shield around their envi­ronment, attempting as much as possi­ble to guard them and their children as they try to get through each trying day.

On Sunday, a tent was raised adja­cent to the home, now known as the “Maahal”, where 24-hour learning is be­ing done in the z’chut of the boys. The local Bnai Akiva and Ariel chapters have created a schedule of shiurim around the clock. Boys and girls, from first grade and up, men and women are con­stantly arriving. Mr. Rami Levy has do­nated snacks and drinks for the tent. People have provided fans and ice is brought every few hours to keep the inhabitants cool (Israel has been expe­riencing a Sharav these past few days with temperatures reaching 102 degrees today… and yet the Maahal is full of people, mostly local teenagers, through­out the day). Our friend, Chani Tanen­buam gave the first women’s shiur earli­er in the week and our neighbor Matany Weiss is closely involved in the organi­zation of the constant learning groups and Chavrutot.

There is no one on the Yishuv who has not gotten involved in the commu­nity response. Decorative signs have sprung up throughout the Yishuv, antic­ipating the boys’ homecoming. Meals, cakes and fruit platters are being pre­pared. Tehillim groups are held dai­ly in our shuls and in women’s homes. There have been communal shiurim and Atzeret Tefillah gatherings through­out the week. And the response among the greater Israel community has been incredible as well. Well-wishers arrive daily to the Frenkel home. Sarah had the idea to place a “Guest Book,” giving people the opportunity to write down their thoughts and wishes for the fami­ly. We found a journal that the kids had not used and brought a shtender from the Yeshiva to the front of the Frenkel home. We were pleased to learn that now, every guest to arrive has been re­quested to write a message to the fam­ily. A small token of Chizuk for them…

Leah spent the afternoon today at the mall, handing out Shabbos can­dles to strangers, encouraging them to light tonight in honor of the kidnapped boys. Elisheva spent last Motzei Shab­bat and Sunday night at the Kotel gath­erings, with 25,000 people pouring their hearts out with one voice. Avi joined me last night at the Mishmar, learning un­til 2 AM with me as well as his friends. Mali and Kobi join us in saying Tehillim and we have added to boys names to our nightly “Dear Hashem” tefilla.

On Monday, we received a call from our old friend Steven Usdan who was working with his congresswoman to ar­range an emergency solidarity mission to visit the families. Due to Sarah’s re­cent involvement with US congressmen and her arrangements of two success­ful missions as well as her trip to Wash­ington earlier this earlier, she was able to provide guidance and direction in how to see this come to fruition. Unfor­tunately, the bureaucracy in Washing­ton and the Congressional House Eth­ics Committee does not generally allow for such an expedited trip but we are still hoping to bring members of Con­gress here in the very near future to pro­vide much needed support for the fami­lies and to keep their stories alive in the world media. Of course, we continue to pray that such a trip will not be needed.

Also on Monday, I got a call out of the blue from Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Senter, an old acquaintance from Teaneck who is now a Rosh Yeshiva of a haredi yeshi­va in Yerushalayim. He wanted to show support for our Yishuv and for the Fren­kels. We decided that the best way to do this was to bring their weekly “mish­mar” learning to our community and to invite everyone to join them in their learning. We made preparations here to have the learning begin immediate­ly following an “Evening of Inspiration” that was planned for Thursday night. Sa­rah asked a friend for help in preparing some food for our guests and within 15 minutes, she had 15 cakes pledged. We bought drinks and cookies and the Ye­shiva brought hot kugel.

As it turned out, the planning worked out perfectly. The yeshiva (Aderes Ha­torah) brought two full buses of 100 talmidim, avrechim and Rebbeim who entered the Shul where the Frenkels daven right as the community was fin­ishing their program with some singing. As the bochurim filed in to the songs of Acheinu and Ani Maamin, they were embraced by the community members and brought into the circles that were spontaneously being formed. Ultimate­ly, over 300 people stood arm in arm, swaying to the music, haredim and Dati Leumim, older men and teenagers, cry­ing together as we beseeched the Ribo­no Shel Olam for mercy. It was a truly inspiring moment and everyone there was strengthened by the other. What followed was 90 minutes of commu­nal learning followed by shiurim by one of their Ramim and my rebbe, the Sgan Rosh Yeshiva of Shaalvim, Rav Michoel Yamer and Tehillim. It was a power­ful evening of achdut and camaraderie among the different hues of our com­munity.

What has amazed us is the strength and determination of the Frenkel fam­ily. As you have seen from the videos broadcast, Rachelli, in her perfect Eng­lish, has conveyed a message of resolve and Emunah that is shared by all of the families. It is real. In her conversations with Sarah and myself, you can see her positivity, her belief in Hashem and in the fact that things were turn out leto­va. She and the other members of the family are more concerned about the welfare of those around them than their own. They are truly remarkable people and we pray that Hashem will continue to provide them the necessary strength as their ordeal continues.

I think we all expected things to be resolved more quickly. A few days at most. We didn’t think this would last a week. And now, it seems that no one knows for certain when the ordeal will end. But the country, and our lit­tle Yishuv, remain cohesive and strong. We are steadfast and we are determined to stay united until Naftali, Gilad and Eyal are brought home safely. This af­ternoon, we received at the front door a single rose with a poem attached that was being delivered to every house in Nof Ayalon. Leah helped me translate it and it reads as follows:

Dear Mishpachat Nof Ayalon,

The Holy One Blessed be He

had chosen you to be the close fami­ly that encircles the Frenkel family with love.

And like a stone that is thrown into a spring and causes circle ripples,

so too the personal challenge creates waves.

And you are the circle that is creat­ed first,

the family that forms an envelope of unconditional caring and love.

And we in the more distant circles, feel that we are together with you!

And we are all praying, with cries to the Master of the World,

that our boys will return, and then our Joy, will be the Joy of Eternity.

We are presenting you with a flower of love. May we share good tidings and a speedy redemption!

The Bet El family

“ Mi Kiamcha Yisrael”!! The Shabbos Siren is sounding as we are all as a coun­try bringing Shabbos in early. Please keep davening for our three boys. May we very soon share Besorot Tovot!

With much love,

Jonathan, Sarah and the kids

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