It was the worst-possible outcome.
All of the prayer sessions and rallies held for the safe return of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah failed to prevent the tragic endgame to the wretched saga that has gripped the country over the last 18 days.
As each day passed without a trace from the abductors or any noticeable progress in the search for the missing teens, the foreboding sense that the scenario would play out this way grew more likely.
The fact that the kidnapped teens were murdered, and not kept alive by their captors to be used as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners, only adds to the senselessness and feeling of despair that arose as the early evening rumors of the boy's graves being found turned into hard cold fact.
Three Israeli teenagers, trying to make their way home at the end of a long week, met their gruesome fate simply because they were Israelis. That's the takeaway from this nightmare, and that's also the starting point for whatever response the government orders to the IDF to undertake.
The crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank that we've seen over the last two weeks is likely just the tip of the iceberg of what is planned in retaliation for the murders. How this all plays out will unfold in the coming days and weeks and could alter the existing situation as we know it regarding Israel's relationship with the PA, the unity Palestinian government and the future of Hamas.
But tonight, all that seems insignificant. Tonight, our hearts are beating together with the families of Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal as they mourn the loss of their innocent children. Tonight, there's been three deaths in our family.