There are so many stories to share today. Close friends, friends of family and acquaintances; people I met and others I have never heard of, that fell to make sure we in Israel and Jews worldwide have a place we can call home.
Over the years I have shared the story of my good friend Eyal Banin z”l who was killed on his last day of reserve duty along the Israel-Lebanon border, in an event where two other soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were killed and their bodies abducted and which triggered the start of the Second Lebanon War. I will never forget learning about his loss in the news. May their memories be blessed!
Another story which made a big impact, not only for me but the entire country was the story of young Ella Abekasis from the Southern Israeli city of Sderot. Her story shook the country and was the reason why Barak Obama, the former president of the United States visited Sderot and met with her family on a trip to Israel during his presidency.
On a personal level her story inspired me to found an organization NU Campaign, where out of frustration to expose the true reality in the South of Israel, I took her story and printed it on the inside of a T-shirt, by the wearers heart, so that others would be inspired to represent her story wherever they go.
Her story has been told, literally, thousands of times and I intend to keep telling it as much as I can.
In 2006, Ella Abekasis, a 17-year-old girl from Sderot was walking back with her younger brother from a youth group meeting in the city, when the “Code-red” siren went off. In Sderot motion-sensors along Israel’s fence with Gaza were installed several years ago, in order to trigger a siren and warn the residents of the city of incoming rockets, giving them approximately 15 seconds to find shelter.
On that dreadful night, there were no bomb shelters, buildings or trees located in close proximity, so Ella took her younger brother, placed him on the floor in the middle of the road and lay down on top of him, protecting him with her entire body. Tragically, the rocket landed several meters away from where Ella and her brother lay on the ground and she was hit by shrapnel from the rocket. She died a week later in the hospital, after having saved her brother’s life.
Ella’s father Yonatan said that she had acted like the guardian of her 10-year old brother from the outset of the Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot. She accompanied him everywhere, slept alongside him, waited outside the bathroom for him and was always with him at the computer on the second floor of the family’s home.
Ayala-Chaya (Ella) Abukasis, who was laid to rest in Sderot, was survived by her parents, Yonatan and Sima, her brothers Ran and Tamir, and sister Keren. Thousands attended the funeral, where her father read a note she had penned shortly before her death: “Sometimes we tend to forget that life will be over one day, and we don’t know when that day will come, and praise is always voiced too late, so in order for that not to happen, I’ve chosen to tell you [father] what a wonderful person you are. Tell people that you love them and care about them.”