When news of the kidnapping of Israeli teenagers
Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifra in the West Bank last Thursday night reached Australia, within hours, Jewish communities across the country were praying for the teens and their families.
Cross-community gatherings have been held this past week in Melbourne and Sydney with thousands of people, young and old, coming together to pay their respects and recite prayers for the Israeli teenagers.
Up to 500 community members are expected to attend the State Zionist Council of Western Australia's solidarity event in Perth on Sunday, June 22.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (EJAC) President Robert Goot said the Australian Jewish community was shocked at the news of the kidnapping and "immediately galvanized itself to do everything it could to draw attention to this terrible act."
"The community has reacted spontaneously with prayer vigils, prayer meetings before communal events, rallies and a variety of other steps to draw attention to the Australian public and parliament to this terrible development and to provide as much comfort and assistance to the families of the boys as possible," Mr Goot said.
Video by Australian Jewish News TV
The Zionist Federation of Australia strongly condemned the kidnapping of the Israeli youths by Palestinian terrorists. “With the ink barely dry on the Palestinian Unity Agreement, we demand that PA (Palestinian Authority) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas puts everything into assisting the Israelis in locating the boys”, ZFA President Dr Danny Lamm said on Sunday. “Unfortunately, this scenario has become all too familiar for Israelis, and we pray for their safe return to their families. The Australian Zionist community stands in solidarity with the people of Israel, and in particular the families involved, at this time”.
Jewish Agency Shaliach in Perth, Western Australia, Leon Schneider said psalms for the boys were being recited at almost every prayer service. "A lot of the Jewish community in Perth feel close to the families of these boys and feel some of the pain that they are going through, without even knowing them," he said.
On Wednesday Victorian Member for Parliament Michael Danby sent a petition to Australian Jewry to call on the Australian government to acknowledge the kidnapping of the three yeshiva boys.
The petition draws the government's attention to: "the widely held belief that Hamas is involved in the kidnapping." It asks the government to "condemn the kidnapping, request that the Executive Government convey to the Palestinian Authority its firm belief that the Palestinian Authority must co-operate and co-ordinate with Israeli Authorities in their efforts to secure the release of these teenagers." It further calls on the Executive Government to "request NGO’s such as UNWRA, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross (organizations which are the beneficiaries of Australian taxpayers financial support) to exercise their influence on Hamas to ensure that the teenagers are released unharmed."
It would have marked the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister had visited Australia.
Mr Goot said EJAC supported Mr Danby's actions and looked forward to the Israeli prime minister's visit.
"This visit is an important manifestation between a strong relationship between Israel and Australia with the high regard that both countries have for each other," he said.
JTA contributed to this report.