newsIsrael at War

Telling the story of the heroes of Oct. 7

Online project gathers and documents stories for children to give them strength and create a sense of unity.

Graphic: Courtesy of Tehila Bar Hama.
Graphic: Courtesy of Tehila Bar Hama.

Eran the potato farmer. Rachel the food hostess. Michaela the midwife.

All three are residents of the northwestern Negev who were caught in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre; all three are heroes who were able to think quickly on their feet and save myriad lives on that dreadful day.

Their stories of heroism, and many more, are being gathered and documented online for children, to give them strength and create a sense of unity amid the horrors being shared about Oct. 7.

The name of the project is “The Heroes of October 7th: Stories for Children,” with the accounts of heroism originally published in Hebrew, and now available on Facebook in English and French as well.

The project is the brainchild of Hadassah Ben Ari, an Israeli mother of seven, who told JNS she spent Oct. 7, Simchat Torah, shuttling her children in and out of a Jerusalem bomb shelter.

“I saw from the expressions on my children’s faces that they didn’t understand what was going on. When we got home to Pardes Hanna [between Netanya and Haifa], where it was quiet, I felt like they didn’t understand the depths of the war, and our need for unity.

“So I told them a story from the point of view of our heroes. When I saw they were smiling and were able to connect, I decided to tell them a story every day.”

It was then that Ben Ari decided she wanted to share what happened on Oct. 7 with the next generation of children in Israel and Jewish communities abroad, “from the point of view of our wonderful heroes and heroines.”

‘They heard their brothers were in danger’

Dr. Allison Kupietzky, the English-language project manager for the initiative, told JNS that she connected to what Ben Ari was trying to accomplish.

“On the first day of the war my nephew, [Sgt. First Class Yosef Malachi Guedalia] fell [in battle]. It really echoed with me that we need to give a name and a face to these heroes who left their homes on Simchat Torah; left their families and drove down because they heard their brothers were in danger.”

Kupietzky said that Ben Ari, a professional writer and editor, started on her own, and shortly after she began to post the stories on social media, a team of about 20 people joined to help.

Kupietzky enlisted volunteer editors and translators to make the stories shared by Ben Ari available in English. “We are now close to 120 stories, so it’s a profound and meaningful project for this time.”

Joslynne Halibard, the English-language editor of the project, told JNS: “We are trying to share these stories with as big of an audience as possible. It [the war] obviously affects our children here in Israel the most, but children abroad want to read about it and either be comforted or be able to identify with children here in Israel.”

Kupietzky added, “Current events in Israel and in the Jewish communities overseas are in the children’s faces. They can’t ignore it. There are posters around them [of hostages], news reports, and their parents are worried.

“This project is so important because it allows the children to view [the situation] through this carefully curated list of stories—which have been reviewed by a psychologist, and gives them the strength and sense of unity we need so much today.”

The Facebook page with the compilation of stories offers professional “guidelines for parents” before, during and after reading the stories to their children, to ensure that the story is appropriate and will in no way result in the opposite effect of triggering anxiety or adding to their fears. 

Ben Ari said that since launching the projects more and more Israeli parents have contacted her, wanting to share stories of the heroism displayed by their adult children who died in defense of the country. Her goal is to turn the stories she gathers into a book in multiple languages.

“I have already gotten feedback from all over the world, including in countries where there is so much antisemitism that Jews are taking down mezuzot and are afraid to light Chanukah candles in public. I feel like I have to connect them to Israel, the one place in the world where you can openly be proud to be Jewish,” she said.

“What Hamas did was unleash more evil into the world. Our response is to add goodness to the world, by sharing the stories of true heroism, by our soldiers and those who protect us. That is the Zionist response,” Ben Ari said.

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