June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Or Yelin of Kibbutz Be’eri Visits Westchester

New Rochelle Mayor-Elect Yadira Ramos-Herbert pledging support for the community and for Israel.

On November 21, the Young Israel of New Rochelle hosted the Westchester Jewish community to hear Or Yelin’s presentation “Together We Can.” Yelin, a veteran of IDF’s elite ‘Maglan’ unit, gave his firsthand account of October 7 at Kibbutz Be’eri and their plans to rebuild.

Yadira Ramos-Herbert, who will become New Rochelle’s mayor in January, opened the program. “For the last seven weeks, I feel the pain and the word scared that the community has really felt over the atrocities that happened on October 7th. We know what Hamas did was unconscionable. I say, as your mayor-elect, but more so, as your friend, neighbor and ally, this wasn’t acceptable. I commit to you that I and the leadership of New Rochelle stand with you, shoulder to shoulder. We have to make sure that you in New Rochelle feel safe.”

Yelin described the founding of Kibbutz Be’eri on October 6, 1946. On October 6, 2023, kibbutz members celebrated its 77th birthday. “At 6:30 a.m., we woke up to strange noises,” he said. “Hundreds of terrorists infiltrated our kibbutz, slaughtering us, setting us on fire, kidnapping, all unimaginable horrors. In one moment, our haven turned into a living hell.”

He recalled that 25 years ago his father, a farmer, drove his tractor monthly to Gaza to deliver watermelons: “a great relationship with our Gazan neighbors,” Yelin said. “Then, in 2006, Hamas was elected. In 2007, they killed Fatah members, taking control, eroding Gaza’s educational and cultural systems. They also took our hope. I grew up just a mile from the border, always on guard, with alarms, massive missile attacks and having five seconds to get to the shelter.”

Or Yelin, a native Kibbutz Be’eri member, describing the tragedy and future of his family’s kibbutz.

In 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, Yelin served in Tzahal. He described the thousands of missiles launched daily into Israel and discovering massive Gaza tunnels. They saw many Hamas members use kids as human shields “to protect themselves. Many friends died in that war, including three of my best friends from my team.” Yelin discovered one tunnel originating in Khan Yunis and ending near Be’eri. “It was always very personal, seeing my kibbutz from the battlefield, finding the tunnel and destroying it.” He was injured severely in Gaza. “The things I saw and the people I lost for the sake of Israel and the Jewish nation, I will never forget, but if privileged, I will [serve] again.”

Recalling October 7 events, Yelin described: “We woke to the longest alarm we ever heard, hundreds of missiles in 15 minutes. We’re on the forefront of Gaza for many decades, in a dangerous location, but we know our role. Our civilian alarm squad’s 12 people can protect us when something like this happens. They helped push this terrorist attack five to 20 minutes until the IDF should’ve come.”

The Yelins hid in their shelter for many hours, hearing only Arabic joking and laughter. On their WhatsApp community chat, neighbors asked for help but nobody came. Yelin texted with the IDF, Navy SEALs and Special Forces units, all saying, “We cannot get inside.”

“Men were killed immediately, so kids watched what they did to their parents and then killed them, leaving the youngest to tell what happened,” Yelin said of one family.

Hamas inflicted unimaginable suffering upon Be’eri, slaughtering over 10% of its population. Many were ruthlessly gunned down at close range after being forced out of safe-rooms of their burning homes. Fifty others, including Yelin’s nephew’s mother and sister, were held captive until a heroic IDF intervention. Twenty-six kibbutz members were abducted. “This sacrifice cannot be for nothing,” Yellin said. “This is part of our chain, our history from devastation to redemption.”

There’s a big gap between government funding focusing on war and the community’s needs. Be’eri’s citizens are now at Dead Sea hotels. Priorities now include the community’s mental health needs and youth homes and schools.

Rabbi Jeffrey Aronowitz of the Westchester Jewish Center highlights his recent post-October 7 visit to Kibbutz Be’eri.

Recently visiting Be’eri, Westchester Jewish Center’s Rabbi Jeffrey Aronowitz saw the devastation. “There was something about being in a place where everybody understood what I was feeling and that we were going through it together. There was something comforting because of Zionism’s optimistic philosophy of the world that was on such amazing display throughout Israel, volunteering, helping each other, donating things.”

Rabbi Aronowitz presented a contribution from Westchester Jewish Center’s members to help rebuild Be’eri as “a small start to contribute and be part of that optimism and that better future for your community.”

“The world couldn’t be with us when these atrocious crimes against humanity occurred,” said Yelin. “But the world can be with us now. We hope to quickly rebuild Be’eri so we can celebrate again one day.”

To learn more about the needs of Kibbutz Be’eri and to support their rebuilding, search https://my.jnf.org/israel-resilience-campaign/KibbutzBeeri

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