From November 5th to 7th, a group of 14 young leaders and changemakers affiliated with WJC Elevate visited Israel to gain firsthand insights into the situation in the areas surrounding the Gaza border and express their unwavering solidarity with Israel.
The delegation commenced in Tel-Aviv with an opening dinner, during which the delegation was welcomed by Hadassah Getsztain, Chairperson of WJC Israel and Eli Novershtern, President of WJC's Jewish Diplomatic Corps. Additionally, they heard from retired British Army officer Colonel Richard Kemp, who provided insights into the history of Hamas and their propaganda tactics. Additionally, they met with Gadi Ezra, a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, who reflected on his experience being called up from reserves following the deadly events of October 7th.
The evening concluded with a presentation by Terry Newman, a prominent member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps and a leader in civil society in Israel, who discussed his efforts assisting Israelis who were evacuated from their homes in southern and northern Israel.
The following day began with a briefing from Ofir, a soldier in the IDF Spokesperson Unit, who shared the story of her friend Lavi Lifshitz, who tragically lost his life in the Gaza conflict. Ofir also read the last note Lavi wrote to his family and friends, emphasizing the message, "always act, always be active, always speak." The delegation then traveled to the southern region of Israel and visited Kfar Azza, one of the kibbutzim most severely affected by the events of October 7th. The day concluded with a heartfelt WJC-sponsored barbeque dinner, honoring the unwavering dedication of the air force soldiers defending their nation.
On the final day of their transformative visit, the delegation, in coordination with WJC Israel, ventured to Shefayim, a kibbutz in central Israel, now a sanctuary for evacuees from Kibutz Azza. Here, they met with survivors from Kfar Azza, witnessing the resilience and strength that emerged from the ashes of tragedy. As they explored the Shefayim kibbutz compound, they learned of the overwhelming support and warm hospitality extended to the evacuees, reminding them of the power of unity and compassion. The delegation also met with Nira Shpak, a board member of WJC Israel and a survivor of the Kfar Azza massacre.
The delegation returned to Tel-Aviv and visited the headquarters of "Bring Them Home Now," a volunteer-based organization dedicated to recovering hostages from Gaza, where they heard from families of the hostages and Colette Avital, member of the WJC Executive Committee and an organizer within Bring Them Home. Here, they sat in solidarity with the families of the hostages, absorbing their pain and reaffirming their commitment to making a difference. The day culminated at Expo Tel Aviv, a converted parking lot now serving as a bustling hub for collecting supplies and donations from Israelis. The vital resources were destined for the brave evacuees, embodying the unwavering spirit of a nation united in the face of adversity.
In just three days, this delegation of young leaders bore witness to the depths of despair and the boundless resilience of the human spirit. The transformative journey was not merely a visit, but served as a resounding call to action.
The Changemakers delegation kicked off with an opening dinner with local WJC Elevate members The participants heard from Colonel Richard Kemp, who spoke about Hamas' propaganda war, Jewish Diplomatic Corp. member Gadi Ezra, a current reserve soldier in the South who shared his experience as an Israeli following October 7th and a current soldier, and Terry Newman, who spoke about the larger picture of October 7th and how civil society has come together.
The WJC delegation embarked on a poignant journey to Kibbutz Kfar Azza, a community destroyed and forever changed by the deadly October 7th terror attack. The delegation witnessed firsthand the destruction inflicted on October 7th by Hamas terrorists.
The delegation visited the city of Sderot where a heroic two-day battle took place at the local police station. Following the site visit, participants received a high-level briefing by Joel Lion, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Republic of Armenia and to the Republic of Moldova and former Ambassador of the State of Israel to Ukraine.
In a heartfelt tribute to the brave soldiers the delegation visited an air force army base during their time in Israel. Meeting these courageous men and women, we were profoundly moved by their unwavering commitment and selflessness. Listening to their inspiring stories of camaraderie and determination, expressed their deepest gratitude for their sacrifice for not only Israel but the Jewish people. WJC sponsored a barbeque dinner, honoring the unwavering dedication of the air force soldiers defending their nation.
The delegation drove to Shefayim, a kibbutz in central Israel that absorbed the community of Kfar Azza, where they had the solemn privilege of meeting the victims of Kfar Azza . Listening to the stories of the survivors, the delegation was profoundly moved by their unwavering strength and resilience in the face of devastating loss.
The delegation met with Nira Shpak, a board member of WJC Israel and a survivor of the Kfar Azza massacre who told the group about her story of survival and hopes for the future.
The delegation had the honor of meeting the families of hostages held by Hamas. Listening to their stories our delegation was deeply moved by their unwavering strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. The delegation’s meeting with the families served as a powerful reminder of the importance of Jewish unity and reaffirmed our collective determination to ensure that the hostages are released.
At Expo Tel Aviv, the delegation observed the heart of a nation in action. The vital resources collected there weren't just supplies; they were symbols of resilience and solidarity, destined to support the brave evacuees. In this bustling hub, the unwavering spirit of a united nation shone brightly, undeterred by adversity.
WJC Elevate cultivates and empowers a global network of passionate Jewish leaders, aged 15-45, providing them with the skills, knowledge, network, and opportunities they need to make a positive impact on their communities and the Jewish world.
WJC Elevate identifies, convenes, and develops top students and young professionals and provides them with impactful training on matters of Jewish advocacy and diplomacy. We support their long-term development as Jewish leaders and also support them in helping to build a future for Jewish communities worldwide.
By elevating their voices, enhancing their potential, and supporting their capabilities, the World Jewish Congress is safeguarding a future for the Jewish people following the Talmudic teaching that "all Jews are responsible for one another."