Some of the communities in our partnership have Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) and Shinshinim (service-year Shlichim) who found themselves in a situation on October 7 that they had never encountered before.
We present the stories of two Shlichim - Omer Shabat in Nashville, TN and Shahar Vaknin, Richmond, VA.
Shahar Vaknin, Richmond, VA
Shahar Vaknin, Shaliach in Richmond, was woken up by the "Tzeva Adom" alarms on Friday night, October 6th. The app has been turned on in his phone ever since his days in the army, where he served in the Iron Dome unit. A few moments later, as the notifications kept pouring in, he realized this was not a usual rocket incident.
Shahar spoke to us about the horrifying first moments leading to finding out that his cousin, whom he was very close with, had been brutally murdered by Hamas terrorists after trying to escape the Nova party site, only to tragically arrive at Kibbutz Beeri. Many of his childhood friends have also been murdered, kidnapped or are still missing. "It was unbearable to see my friends in danger and my country under attack, while I am thousands of miles away", he says, "I felt a deep and crippling feeling of helplessness". Now, having returned to Israel, he is still processing this catastrophe but that he feels it was the right decision to make, and he could not have stayed away from Israel at its time of need.
Omer Shabat, Nashville, TN
Omer Shabat, Shaliach in Nashville, was in the United States with his family on a joint vacation when news of the Hamas attack broke. Their joyous trip took a somber turn, and they found themselves glued to the news. Reports began flooding in, revealing the grim toll of hundreds dead and thousands injured, with many individuals missing or taken hostage. Omer recounted that a considerable number of his friends had been at the Nova party, which tragically turned into a bloodbath. Initially, fifteen of them were reported missing. However, with each passing day, he received increasingly devastating updates about his friends, many of whom were found dead. These heartbreaking revelations left him deeply saddened.
One fateful day, he received the devastating news that his sister's boyfriend and her best friend had also been murdered at the party. Omer struggled to come to terms with the tragedy, especially when he considered that these were young individuals who had just completed their military service, with their entire lives ahead of them. They had been brutally taken from this world, and their dreams would remain unfulfilled. Omer felt an overwhelming urge to act and help, yet the shock still hasn't dissipated. He emphasizes the importance of collective prayers, even from a great distance, for a brighter future. Omer believes that the harrowing events should not be in vain, and that change is on the horizon.