Young Leaders Delegation

Life-changing and light-spreading

I think the most impactful experience for me was our day in the communities shattered by October 7.


Before going to Israel on the Zionist Federation of Australia’s Young Leaders Mission, many told me that I would return a changed person. They were right.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, everything felt different. I felt the heaviness in the air. When I walked down the famous ramp at Ben Gurion Airport, which usually brings me so much joy, I felt anger seeing posters of the hostages. When I picked up my suitcase, I felt frustrated that this is Israel’s reality. When I looked into the eyes of the security guard I felt the sadness in his eyes. But when I saw the Israeli flag, I felt at home.

I felt even more at home when I met up with 17 young Jewish leaders from all over Australia and New Zealand. Delegates were leaders from across the political and religious spectrum, representing Habonim, Bnei Akiva, Tzofim, Betar, Netzer, Diller Teen Fellow alumni and AUJS.

Our first stop was the Arava. There, we saw the compassion of the people, who, since October 7, have helped their brothers and sisters who were evacuated from their homes. The Arava has opened its homes, created schools, and built additional bomb shelters.

While we were privileged to have a packed schedule organised by the ZFA and Jewish Agency, I think the most impactful experience for me was our day in the communities shattered by October 7.

At Be’eri, none of us spoke –we took it all in silently. Yet, the silence was loud. I could hear the screams of young children, the pleading of parents and their cries. The once beautiful and green kibbutz was destroyed. Houses were burnt to the ground and kindergartens were littered with bullet holes.

One building struck me. A building without a roof and only partial walls remaining. Even after four months, it still smelt of smoke, it was no longer a home. Our Australian tour guide, Danny Majzner, whose sister Galit Carbone was murdered, told me a family of five once lived there. They were left with an impossible choice. They could either stay inside this burning house or they could run outside and be murdered by the terrorists.

Later, we travelled to the Nova Festival massacre site. What shocked me most was the fact that it was a massive open field. Where could they hide? How long could they run before being hunted down? It was an open field, with a sealed destiny.

I did my best to appreciate whatever positives I could. Re’im is filled with the smiling faces of 364 people and Be’eri is filled with Israeli flags. It gave me strength, resilience and hope. It reminded me I come from a people who do not know defeat.

Yet, we are still fighting for the return of all the hostages – their now-faded photos still plastered all around Israel.

We had the opportunity to meet with Dalia Kushnir, whose two brothers-in-law Eitan and Yair, are still held hostage by Hamas.

We walked through Hostages Square. We spoke with the families. We understood, no matter what, Israel must do everything to bring them home.

Ramona Chrapot surveys Kibbutz Be’eri.

I had the privilege of meeting Israelis from all walks of life, including Ayesha Zaidna, a Bedouin who lost family members on October 7 and has others still in Hamas captivity. We met Eylon Levy, who inspired us with his proud advocacy and David Chester, who left his young family to join the IDF as a reservist in protecting Israel. Despite their heartbreak and fear, they stand tall and strong.

But the person who made the biggest impact on me was Keren Elian. Around a month and a half ago, Keren’s brother, Yaakov, an IDF soldier, was killed in battle. Yet, Keren’s constant smile beamed on her face. I asked how she could smile, and she said, “Hamas has taken enough from me, I won’t let them take my spirit or my smile.” I realised that is the greatest act of revenge, ensuring we lift our heads and continue to strengthen a thriving Jewish community. Keren showed us love, compassion and empathy. To me, Keren is the embodiment of Jewish resilience.

Now, we must spread that resilience here in Australia.

Despite the unprecedented levels of hate the Jewish community is experiencing, as university students and youth movement leaders, we must draw on our resilience and our intra-communal relationships to fight against antisemitism and its perils together. Despite our diversity and occasional disagreements, we came together and stood proud in our unity. We know and understand that we all have a role to play. Whether it is speaking with our peers, to our university lecturers, posting on social media or teaching students at our youth movement. For me, it is my Israel advocacy account @_didjewknow and in my role at the ZFA.

As current and future leaders, whether we are torchbearers, advocates or educators, it is our responsibility to be unapologetically proud Zionist Jews. And that responsibility is a gift. A gift from the ZFA, the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation. We are now committed to turning that gift into an investment for our community.

Ramona Chrapot is the Zionist Federation of Australia’s social media officer.

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