Hundreds of people gathered in Pan Pacific Park on Thursday night to join in solidarity and prayer for Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel. A cross spectrum from the Jewish community crowded together behind the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, while news crews and police stood at the edges of the crowd. Yellow ribbons were pinned to T shirts and jackets; many held signs that read Bring Back Our Boys, while others held photos of the missing or Israeli flags.
The speakers were as varied as the audience. Speakers included Consul General of Israel David Siegel, President of the Jewish Federation Jay Sanderson, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Leehy Shaer Gilad’s aunt, and various rabbis, pastors, and elected officials.
“The violent kidnapping of children is not an Israeli issue or a Jewish issue,” said Consul General Siegel. “Tonight, we come together to tell the world that this horrendous act of terror against children must not, and will not, be tolerated.”
“You never know when terrorism can afflict any one of us. And in fact it has afflicted all of us, because we are all part of the same family,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“Israel is a profound, unique ally of America; the only democracy in a troubled region of the world,” said Ted Lieu, member of the California Senate. “These three abductions are acts of cowardice and terrorism that need to be loudly condemned,” continued Lieu, who had to pause for applause from the audience at several points in his speech. “Another reason we are here tonight is to say that Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, the State of California, and America stands with Israel and with these families tonight.”
Representatives from across the religious spectrum brought messages of unity and solidarity. As the sun began to set and candles were passed around, the Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith took the stage. He began by reading Psalm 91 in English, and then added a prayer. Pastor Carlos Diaz followed. “We come today as friends of the Jewish community, to show our support for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal, and to bring a message to their family and friends that they are not alone.” He too closed with a prayer, in English and Spanish.
Next was Rev. Stephen McGlover, whose first words, “Bring our boys home,” were met with cheers. He spoke of a trip to Israel and being amazed at watching the prayer. “They say that prayer changes things. Well, it changes people also. I thank the Consul General, I thank the Federation as well, and I want you to know that we support the Jewish community. And we stand by you in this effort.”
Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob spoke movingly. “Any person who has been blessed with children knows the feeling of waiting for children to come home from school… Their parents are still waiting. The message that I want to send to the parents and the relatives is that we are all here waiting together with you. We are hoping and praying together with you.”
Jay Sanderson announced the blowing of the shofar. “It’s at times like this, throughout our history, that we blow the shofar,” he said and several shofar blasts were sounded. At the close of the event, Mike Burstyn took the stage to sing Naomi Shemer’s Lu Yehi. As night fell and the candle flames burned, the crowd joined him in song.
Leehy Shaer, Gilad’s aunt, spoke early in the evening, “People need to know how awful terrorism is. It doesn’t go away through silence. It only goes away when people confront it. With our spiritual strength working together, we pray that, God-willing, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal will be released and returned as quickly as possible to their families.”