Lihi Shaar, aunt of the murdered teen Gilad Shaar, struggled to hold back tears as she spoke on the telephone, still absorbing the shocking news.
She spoke slowly as she said she was holding a picture of her 16-year-old nephew, whose body was discovered today, 18 days after he and two friends, Eyal Yifrach, 16, and Naftali Frankel, 19, were kidnapped by two Palestinian men — Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha — at a West Bank bus stop.
The three were hoping to hitchhike a ride home from their Alon Shvut high school for the Shabbat weekend.
According to a report in the New York Times, which cited a spokesman for the Israeli military, the bodies were found "under a pile of rocks in an open field" near Halhul and Beit Kahil, two Palestinian towns north of Hebron.
“His sisters don’t have a brother anymore,” Shaar said sorrowfully in a short telephone interview. “I can’t believe it.”
Speaking from Los Angeles, where she has lived since April, Shaar said Gilad had been in the middle of helping his five sisters direct a play in which the siblings were going to perform at an upcoming Bat Mitzvah in the family.
In a previous interview, Shaar said that her nephew was a counselor with B’nai Akiva, a religious Zionist youth group and had planned to enroll in a hesder yeshiva following his high school graduation, which meant that he would have served in the Israeli military while pursuing advanced Torah studies.
“They just wanted to go home,” Shaar said. “I wish he didn’t want to go home that night.” She added that the failure of Hamas or any other terrorist group to acknowledge responsibility or release any video during the Israeli military’s search made her fear the worst—that her nephew and his friends had been murdered, and were not—as was the case with Gilad Shalit—being held as bargaining chips in a possible prisoner trade.
“They don’t appreciate life; they don’t care about life [and] they don’t care about peace,” Shaar said of Hamas. “They just want to kill. They don’t want to talk—they don’t want to negotiate.”
On June 19, speaking at a candlelight vigil at Pan Pacific Park, Shaar pleaded for the return of the teenagers and spoke out to her abducted nephew: “I desperately miss your smile on Skype and on Facebook.”
After the vigil, she approached a poster of a smiling Gilad and silently rested her head on it.
As she concluded the call, still clutching the picture of her nephew, Shaar said quietly, “I don’t believe that his smile is just a picture.”
“It won’t bring him back. It won’t bring him back.”
You can follow Jared Sichel on Twitter @thesichel