Forward Thinking

Kidnapped Students Could've Been Us

By Phil Getz

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Phil Getz, center, relaxes with fellow yeshiva students in Gush Etzion several years ago

Like many students and graduates of Israeli yeshiva, I have been refreshing my computer browser non-stop since Friday morning looking for any sign of hope for the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped on Thursday evening.

For those of us who studied at any of the yeshivas or seminaries in Gush Etzion, the news has particular resonance. According to Haaretz, the teens “disappeared late Thursday night between Kfar Etzion and the settlement Alon Shvut” apparently while hitchhiking near the Gush Etzion junction.

I must have hitchhiked from that very spot several hundred times, not infrequently on Thursday nights, which is a popular night to travel. And so has every other yeshiva student in the area.

We all knew, as I’m sure these teens did, which cars to enter and which to avoid as they approached on the hilly road. Sometimes there were Israeli security forces in the area, sometimes not.

I recall on one particular Thursday night, the fourth in November, two American friends and I went to the shwarma place at the Gush Etzion junction to uphold the tradition of eating turkey on Thanksgiving.

Sitting on the side of the road, each of us shared what we were thankful for that year. For me, it was the opportunity to spend one more year of life studying Torah in the Judaean hills from one of the great scholars of our generation, and at a place so welcoming to American sensibilities.

We waited patiently at the junction for the next free ride back to yeshiva.

Not then, not ever, did we feel in danger.

I look at the photos of the three young men who vanished there last night, one an American citizen, of which there so many in that small community. Please pray for their safe return: Yaakov Naftali Ben Rochel Devorah, Gilad Michoel Ben Bat Gali, and Eyal Ben Iris Teshura.

They look just like we did only a few years ago.


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