A stirring memorial event was held this week Tuesday, at Chabad of the Georgia Institute of Technology, known more popularly by its moniker Georgia Tech.
The event, led by Rabbi Shlomo Sharfstein, honored the deaths of two Border Police officers brutally murdered in an ISIS terror attack in Hadera. In the course of the ceremony, a moment of silence was observed in memory of Yezan Falah, 19, of Kasra Samia, and Shirel Abukarat,19, of Netanya, who were shot and killed in the Sunday, March 26, terror attack.
The event was held in the framework of a 10-day college campus tour for wounded IDF veterans and terror victims hosted by Belev Echad, a humanitarian organization committed to honoring wounded IDF soldiers in conjunction with Chabad on Campus.
In the past years, American college campuses have become a breeding ground for rabid anti-Semitism, BDS activists, and anti-Israel sentiments that frequently cause Jewish students to feel marginalized and insecure. Bombarded with constant negative information and misinformation about Israel and the Middle East, even those with inbred Jewish pride and strong Jewish identities can vacillate and wonder where they stand on critical socio-political issues closely related to their heritage.
“The fight for the truth is a daily battle and a constant struggle. The world often feels like a dark place with so much falsehood. Like a tiny flame that illuminates the darkness, so too we must shine our torch of truth and illuminate the darkness,” expresses Belev Echad co-founder Rabbi Uriel Vigler who launched the organization with his wife Shevy.
“Belev Echad’s campus tours are about sharing the experiences of an Israeli civilian and soldier, the Israeli peers of American college kids, defending his people and homeland,” Shevy adds.
The ceremony at Georgia Tech was led by Aviv Barr, an IDF veteran who was seriously wounded in the 2017 vehicle-ramming attack in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. Barr was one of the soldiers hit when a terrorist plowed his truck into them and ran them over twice under his wheels, killing 4 and wounding 15.
“As one who’s personally endured the throes of terror on my own skin, I feel that I’m able to genuinely present the Israeli perspective to American college kids. Everyone hears about Israel on the news, but there’s so much misinformation—and disinformation—that so much of what they know is false. They hear such a skewed, one-sided perspective of Middle Eastern events that it’s only natural that they develop negative prejudices,” Barr said.
“As soon as we meet them face-to-face and share our personal stories—which for me includes nearly losing my life to terror and the brutal rehab period that followed—their hearts open up and they’re much more open to hearing the Israeli perspective of truth.”
In the course of the 10-day campus tour between March 18 and March 27 that was sponsored by Belev Echad in collaboration with Chabad on Campus, the delegation of Israeli veterans visited Carnegie Melon University; University of Pittsburgh; Indiana University Bloomington; University of Hartford; Georgetown University; Kent University; Case Western Reserve University; and Georgia Tech.
The traveling veterans received word of the brutal attack in Hadera that left two Israeli border police officers dead while en route to their final stop at Georgia Tech; and understandably, they took the news hard.
Ohad Roisblatt, delegation member and wounded IDF veteran, shares: “When we heard the news, it was like we were all instantly catapulted back to those dark days when we were hanging between life and death as a result of the terror that we suffered. Visiting college campuses around the US, we’re seeing a national trend of American students delegitimizing Israel simply due to lack of knowledge. Most of these students don’t have a clue about us or what’s really happening in Israel, and the only way to reach them is by sharing our hardest moments with them. I was deeply touched when the students, of their own accord, expressed a wish to observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims, Yazan and Shirel.”
“I think the campus tour has been an eye-opening experience for all of us. Aside from allowing us to share our challenges and triumphs with our American peers, it also enabled us to see, firsthand, what Jewish students in the US are dealing with, and we appreciate that it’s not easy,” Barr expressed. “We’re so thankful for all those here in America who stand up for Israel and are proudly voicing their opinions!”