06/23/2014 03:03 pm ET Updated Aug 23, 2014

The Boys Need Us

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I go to bed at night and, as I stretch out in the familiar softness, I think of them: How are they sleeping? Are they allowed beds? I cannot bear to think of their parents' despair: Is there any way their parents are sleeping at night?

I wake up, the June sun filling my room with promise, and I think of them: Are they hungry? Tired? I try not to think: Are they being abused or tortured? But it is a logical question. I cannot think of their parents.

I hug my children, and I can't help but wonder: Are the boys alive? And, Is there a more exquisite pain for a loved one than not knowing?

It's been 10 days since they were kidnapped.

They are so young; two 16-year-olds and one 19-year-old. High school students, kidnapped from a bus stop on their way home from school.

They should be happily anticipating summer vacation, dreaming about future graduations, planning trips. Their lives are a big, happy, empty story, waiting to be written. They have so much yet to accomplish; to experience; to give!

I wasn't far from that bus stop, years ago. In fact, I was the same age as the oldest of the three boys -- 19; in Israel for a year of study and exploration.

Gush Etzyon. I remember the windswept vistas; the green hills disappearing into foggy clouds. I remember the delicious food. I remember the joy of regular people living regular lives, and that intriguing mix of ancient wisdom and youthful passion that permeates the Land of Israel like nowhere else.

Last summer, my brother-in-law got married in Israel, and my brother moved there with his family. I went to the wedding and stayed a few extra days. Small children play ball in courtyards, alleyways, streets. They walk to school; they buy themselves candy bars. It is like a time warp -- America of the 1950's, before the world became dangerous for children.

The Israeli children are bright-eyed; innocent, sweet. They look me in the eye when I ask them a question. They don't say, "The store you want is two doors down, to the right." They say, "Come, I'll take you there." Very small children ask you to walk them across busy streets.

When the children thank you, they speak in poetry. My first day in Jerusalem, I met up with an old friend. Some kids playing nearby threw a wayward ball in our direction. My friend returned it to them. A boy, maybe 9 or 10, called out, "Thank you, giveret. May you have peace, joy and blessing in everything you do, and a long and healthy life!"

It is also a country of dark shadows. I had to keep fighting the urge to drag each child back home to his or her parents and say, Hold your children close!

But that's because I'm American. The Israelis know all about the shadows, far better than any American. They square their shoulders, and they tell their children to go play outside; to buy something from the store around the corner; to walk to school; to come home from school.

They live, and they find the joy.

Only sometimes, the children don't come home.

Pained people around the world have gathered to recite prayers and psalms. We have resolved to work on improving our character: to let go of negativity and anger; to achieve inner happiness by focusing on the abundant goodness in our lives; to find something to love in every person. We hope that these things will tip the heavenly scales of merit in favor of the boys' safe return.

What more can we do? We hope, and we pray.

As a writer, I prefer to keep my writing positive. And I generally feel uncomfortable making requests of my readers. But please, my friends, dear readers, just this once, I ask you: Keep the three missing boys in your thoughts and prayers. They are my cousins, my family.

It will help more than you can ever know.