There was something about Ariel Zohar that reminded Kelly Sacks Coghlan of her own nephews and compelled her to connect with him after October 7.
Zohar, a 12-year-old boy who lived on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, lost his entire family in the Hamas massacre. While he was out for his morning jog, terrorists burst into his home and killed his father Yaniv, mother Yasmin and two sisters Techelet and Keshet.
The tragedy occurred just before he was due to celebrate his bar mitzvah.
“I have nephews who are very sporty and something in his face just reminded me of them, who also go for runs,” Sacks Coghlan, who lives in Sydney, told The AJN.
“I’m sure everybody feels the same with regards to this young boy, but why did he get spared and everybody else was taken? What is God trying to teach him or the world that he went for a run and came home to find everybody had been murdered?
“Also having lost a parent I know that turns your world upside down, but I cannot imagine how your world would look after losing everyone. His story resonated with me on so many levels and I just felt like I needed to find this boy.”
So Sacks Coghlan contacted Israeli journalists and was eventually put in touch with Ariel’s uncle Shoham, who confirmed Ariel is a huge soccer and basketball fan. Sacks Coghlan wanted Ariel to know how much support he has in Australia, so she put a call out to parents to record their children’s messages for Ariel while wearing their favourite soccer jerseys.
“I would just send one or two videos every Shabbat,” Sacks Coghlan said, while at the same time she was contacted by a property developer in America and a young Chabad Jew who also wanted to help.
“Between the three of us we’re now arranging a trip for Ariel and other orphans and their guardians to go to America in April to be a part of some NBA games and sit front row.”
Sacks Coghlan said she also has a vision of bringing Ariel to Moriah College or Emanuel School, “just for him to see how other kids his age have all been behind him and praying for him”.
Last month Ariel celebrated his bar mitzvah. He wore his father’s tefillin, which came from his grandfather who survived the Holocaust and which the ZAKA search and rescue organisation had managed to retrieve from his burnt family home.
At the bar mitzvah, attended by hundreds of people, former chief rabbi Rabbi Yisrael Lau said, “My father was also murdered. My mother was murdered too. And I, like you, was orphaned when it was time for my bar mitzvah.
“Despite this, I’ve had a good life and enjoyed some achievements. And so will you. You too will have a good life, because you will see how much people love you.”