NOF AYALON - On a quiet street in the rural community of Nof Ayalon, located in central Israel's Ayalon Valley, members of the press stood outside the home of Racheli and Avi Frankel. They are the parents of the missing Israeli teen, Naftali, who was abducted with two other classmates byterrorists group last Thursday night in Gush Etzion.
Giving her first statement to the press on Sunday morning, Racheli Frenkel described the gratitude that she and her family share for all those trying to bring her 16-year-old son home. "All the work that is being done by the Israeli security forces, the support of the American embassy in Tel Aviv, and the waves of prayers and support, we just request that this continue," said Frenkel.
Naftali's aunt, Ittael Fraenkel told Tazpit News Agency that "these are very hard days. But we are very optimistic. We know that everyone is doing everything they can to bring Naftali and the other two boys, Gilad and Eyal, home."
"We really believe that with all this help and all the prayers that the country is praying for them, we hope to see them home soon," Fraenkel told Tazpit.
Photo: Hillel Meir, Tazpit News Agency / Ittael Fraenkel speaks about her nephew, Naftali, 16, who was kidnapped on Thursday, June 12 in the Gush Etzion Junction.
"Naftali is an amazing kid; he's really sweet -- a combination of a serious kid and a fun kid." The 16-year-old student -- who studied in a highly regarded yeshiva, Makor Chaim, in Gush Etzion -- was supposed to take a biology exam on Monday, his aunt told Tazpit.
"We just want to see Naftali home -- we miss him," Fraenkel said, tearing up.
The Frenkels, who are U.S. citizens and from New York, have been living in Nof Ayalon, a community of 430 families, for nearly 20 years.
"This is the first time that a kidnapping of a child or anyone has taken place in our community," Rami Lieber, the spokesperson for Nof Ayalon told Tazpit. "The community is a very supportive one -- psychologists and social workers have been helping out with the family's children since the kidnapping."
On Sunday night, more than 300 youths and community members of Nof Ayalon and the surrounding area gathered to pray together and recite the Psalms in the community's yeshiva for the safe return of Naftali, who has six other siblings, and his classmates.
Photo: Hillel Meir, Tazpit News Agency / Sunday evening prayers in the yeshiva of Nof Ayalon for the safe return of the three kidnapped Israeli teens.
As members of the press stood around the Frenkel's home, Adi Berger, a neighbor of the Frenkel family, carefully made her way through the crowd, carrying a plate of food and snacks that she and other neighbors had prepared.
"This is a very warm community; we look out for each other. There is an emergency response team made up of community members that take care of families during times of crises," explained Berger to Tazpit News Agency. "We've been working in shifts, taking turns to bring dinner and anything else the Frenkel family needs during this time."
"We feel like we've been receiving a big hug from everyone," says Ittael Frankel. "I know that everyone is doing everything possible in Israel and outside -- it's a big help."
A petition on the White House website was created June 14, demanding the release of Naftali Frenkel, who is a U.S. citizen. The petition reads "It is the responsibility of the United States Government to ensure the safe and timely return of its citizen and son, Naftali Frenkel, aged 16. We demand that President Barack Obama and his administration use all the means necessary to assist the Israeli Government in their efforts to locate these captive children..."
100,000 signatures are needed in order for the petition to be officially addressed by policy experts in the Obama administration.
See video of the interview with Naftali's aunt here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJsBAUUYCw8&feature=youtu.be