The local Jewish community is joining others around the world to remember three Israeli teenagers found dead this week in the West Bank.
The public is invited to attend a memorial service at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center of Allentown. The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Jewish Clergy Group are coordinating the service.
"It's a memorial service so this is not a political event. This is an opportunity to express grief and to express sorrow," said Mark Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley. "For 18 days, ever since we learned word of the kidnapping, we were united in hope and optimism and prayer. We really were hoping this would end differently but now we are united in sorrow and we're united in grief."
"We just received word that the Israel Consul General Yaron Sideman will be with us this evening and he'll be offering some remarks, as well," Goldstein told 69 News Wednesday afternoon. "He is the consul general for Israel based out of their Philadelphia consulate. He's part of the Israel diplomatic core within the United States."
The three teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank a few weeks ago while they were hitchhiking home. Their bodies were found in a field in the West Bank Monday. Israeli officials believe the Hamas militant group is to blame.
"I think all people who love peace and who hope for a better tomorrow should be stunned and flabbergasted when this happens to innocent individuals," said Goldstein.
Tensions in the region are mounting after the body of a Palestinian teenager was found in Jerusalem Wednesday. Israeli police are looking into whether it was retaliation for the deaths of the three Israeli teens.
"If it was anyway retribution, we strongly condemn that," said Goldstein. "This is a serious and complex situation and a serious and complex tragedy. Having said that, the heinous kidnapping of three innocent teens who are hitchhiking home from school is not complex; it's a crime."
The memorial service is at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center of Allentown at 702 N. 22nd St.