“He smiles the whole time and is full of joy for life,” was how a friend described Gil-Ad Shaer, one of the three boys kidnapped on Thursday night.
Eli Yemini, a spokesman for the Talmon settlement and an acquaintance of the Shaer family, spoke warmly of Gil-Ad, describing him as a popular and charismatic boy.
“He has a very generous heart. He volunteers his time especially with Bnei Akiva [youth movement] and invests a lot of time with the children in the branch where he is a counselor,” he said.
“He’s very family oriented, he’s close with his grandparents and his siblings, and when he comes home from yeshiva everyone in the house comes alive,” he said.
According to Yemini, Gil-Ad, one of six siblings, is also an enthusiastic baker. His friends and family enjoy the cakes and treats he bakes for them.
Rochelle Penkower, a family friend and neighbor, also noted Gil-Ad’s culinary gifts, and said that his sisters in particular were big fans of his cakes and cookies, and that his mother frequently hands over baking responsibilities to Gil-Ad.
“He has a great smile; it’s infectious. He’s so friendly and popular and he’s a sweetheart of a grandchild,” she said.
Penkower and Yemini described Gil-Ad as a responsible person, and Yemini said that he did not usually hitchhike.
Yemini said that Gil-Ad was in constant contact with his parents while traveling Thursday night, and that as soon as they lost contact, they thought something was wrong, since it was not normal for him to not come home without mentioning where he would be.
Gil-Ad’s parents then informed the police in Modi’in, close to Talmon, that he had gone missing on Thursday night, Yemini said.
Penkower said that the family was receiving a great deal of support from the community in Talmon and from the messages that have come to them from around the country.
She added that Gil-Ad’s mother had “thanked the Jewish people for their warmth and support” and requested that prayers continue to be said for the safe return of the three boys.
Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel, who was also kidnapped, described him as a warm personality, a boy who is “an energetic young adult and a sweet and engaging fellow.”
“He’s a successful student, and he loves to play football, to play guitar and do the things that boys his age do,” Fraenkel said of his nephew.
Naftali’s uncle noted his talent for reading the weekly Torah portion in synagogue and his willingness to contribute to the community in this way.
“He is an excellent reader, it’s always a pleasure to hear him in synagogue, and beyond that we frequently have discussions about the correct pronunciations and grammar of the words,” he said.
He added that the entire family continues to pray for the safe return of the boys.
“We are praying for the help of the Heavenly powers, and their assistance to those forces here on earth to return the three boys to their families.”