The announcement on Monday night that the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists had been found dead near Hebron sent shockwaves throughout the nation.

After 18 days of Psalms and prayers, tears and tribulations, the people of Israel received a jarring reminder regarding the undeniable iniquity of our enemies.

There are those who still refuse to acknowledge this cold, hard truth, and instead choose to cling to futile hopes of Palestinian sincerity regarding reconciliation.

But the abduction and brutal murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel by Palestinians should lay to rest once and for all any such delusions.

To kidnap and slaughter three innocent teens is an act of pure evil. To put their families through the emotional hell of heart-rending uncertainty and anxiety is a feat of sheer wickedness. And to celebrate the incident, as Palestinians have been doing since it occurred, is indicative of a deep-seated depravity, one that salutes savagery and applauds barbarism.

Consider, for example, the interview with the mother of one of the Palestinian kidnappers, Amer Abu Eisha, that was broadcast Sunday night on Channel 10. After denying that her son was involved, Abu Eisha’s mother proceeded to express delight in the possibility that he might actually have carried out such an atrocity.

“They’re throwing the guilt on him by accusing him of kidnapping,” she said, adding that, “If he truly did it, I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”

What can one possibly say in the face of such twisted immorality? There were no condemnations by Palestinian officials or commentators of the kidnapper’s mother or her warped words, no expressions of shock or disgust that a human being could actually take pride in such malevolence.

Contrast this with the quiet dignity and profound faith shown by the parents of the Israeli victims throughout their ordeal, and the utter lack of anger or bitterness which they projected in their statements to the media. That alone speaks volumes about the qualitative difference between Israel and its foes.

We cherish and uphold life, while our adversaries seek to destroy it.

Indeed, this is hardly the first time that Palestinian terrorists have intentionally targeted Jewish children, tossing aside any semblance of humanity in pursuit of their aims. It was just over three years ago that Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad, two Palestinians from the village of Awarta, infiltrated the nearby Jewish community of Itamar and murdered five members of the Fogel family in their home on the Sabbath.

With unnerving sadism, the two perpetrators methodically went from room to room, cutting the throats of Ruth and Udi Fogel and three of their children: Yoav (11), Elad (4) and three-month-old Hadas.

After they were apprehended, the two terrorists expressed no remorse for their actions, saying that had they known that two other children had been sleeping in the Fogel home at the time, they would have murdered them as well.

And just how did the Palestinian “street” react? The same way they reacted to the kidnapping of the three teens: with joy and dancing in the streets, and the distribution of sweets to passersby as though their team had just prevailed in the World Cup in Brazil.

And a poll taken shortly after the murder of the Fogel family found that one-third of Palestinians said they supported the attack.

Then there was the March 2001 murder of a 10-month-old girl, Shalhevet Pass, in Hebron by a Palestinian sniper, who deliberately looked aimed at the child’s head with his high-powered scope, and pulled the trigger.

To be sure, every society has its rotten apples, its lowlifes and scoundrels who seek to wreak havoc. But how a society chooses to relate to such villains is the yardstick by which to measure it. And in this regard, the Palestinians have shown again and again that their social order is saturated with hate and their moral compass has clearly gone awry.

After all, the culprits in these assaults are hailed as heroes by the Palestinian Authority, which sees fit to pay monthly stipends to those who committed attacks against innocent Israelis even as it incites others to initiate still more violence.

In our era of political correctness and moral relativism, it is considered impolite and boorish to speak in stark terms such as good and evil. But I couldn’t care less. Israel is in the midst of a titanic struggle against the forces of evil and extremism. We are the good guys and we must never lose sight of the justness of our cause.

There are many lessons to be learned from the frightful kidnapping, ranging from tactical to strategic.

But perhaps the most important of all is that we finally realize what we are up against: an enemy for whom cruelty is a virtue rather than a vice.

The Palestinians are merely the latest incarnation of those who throughout history have sought our destruction.

Like those who preceded them, they too shall fail.

And regardless of what our critics might say, we must look the evil we face squarely in the eye and subdue it, rather than surrender to it.

May the memories of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali be for a blessing for their families and loved ones, and for the entire Jewish people.

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