NEW YORK (JTA) – UJA-Federation of New York is launching a $500,000 fund to support unity programming in Israel in memory of the three Israeli teens murdered this summer in the West Bank.
The Jerusalem Unity Initiative was announced on Monday by the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat.
The initiative will be run by Gesher, an Israeli organization devoted to building bridges among the various segments of Israeli society, in collaboration with the families of the three teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
The June 12 kidnapping of the teens helped spark this summer’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The boys were killed by their Palestinian captors hours after they were abducted from a hitchhiking post in the West Bank. Their bodies were found three weeks later.
The details of the programming are still being worked out, but the Jerusalem Unity Initiative will include the awarding of three Jerusalem Unity Prizes to individuals or programs that promote unity, respect and tolerance in the Jewish state. Each of the prizes will carry the name of one of the murdered teens.
The awards ceremony will take place in June, on or about the teens’ yahrzeit — the anniversary of their deaths.
The war prompted by the kidnappings “resulted in an unprecedented level of unity in Israel,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, told JTA. “The purpose of this initiative is to take that type of unity and develop and sustain that unity across time.
“There are a lot of internal rifts within Israeli society, different groups with different narratives. The idea is to put together programs that bring together these different groups with competing narratives and try to bridge them.”
The particulars of the program will be finalized in the coming weeks in conjunction with Gesher, Barkat and the three families, Goldstein said. The $500,000 allocation by UJA-Federation of New York is a three-year grant.