Jerusalem Unity Prize established in memory of kidnapped Israeli teens

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) —The Jerusalem Unity Prize has been established in memory of three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The prize, in memory of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel, a dual American and Israeli citizen, was announced Thursday by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

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The prize was developed in partnership with the families of the three boys and Jerusalem-based organization Gesher as a way to perpetuate the spirit of unity which existed across Israel and around the world during the days following the boys’ kidnapping.

The boy’s mothers, who became a symbol of the unity during the nearly two-week ordeal from the kidnapping until the boys bodies were discovered, created a video announcing the prize in which they call on Jews “to take a deep breath (and) bridge the gaps that divide us.”

The award will be presented in three separate categories- Individuals or Organizations, Social Initiatives, and Israel and the Diaspora each with prizes of up to about $25,000. Winners will be chosen from a committee chaired by Barkat, the parents of the three boys and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora, prize organizers said in a statement.

“While grappling with the unknown question of the fate of their sons, the Yifrah, Shaer and Fraenkel families taught the entire world a remarkable lesson in courage and showed us that unity is a value that enables us to overcome even the greatest challenges,” Barkat said. “The Jerusalem Unity Prize will spread this message from Jerusalem across the world and become the eternal legacy of these three remarkable young men.”

In addition to the prize, a special Unity Day is being planned for June 3, 2015 in Jerusalem where the awards will be presented alongside programming to promote unity initiatives.  The event is being held on the one-year anniversary of the boys’ deaths.

The prize is funded by Ira and Ingeborg Rennert, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein, Robert and Amy Book, David and Sarena Koschitzky and the UJA Federation of New York.