Volunteers from Hashomer HaChadash's Alexander Zaid youth leadership program rebuild the forest of Kfar Aza near the border with the Gaza Strip. Credit: Courtesy of Hashomer HaChadash.
Volunteers from Hashomer HaChadash's Alexander Zaid youth leadership program rebuild the forest of Kfar Aza near the border with the Gaza Strip. Credit: Courtesy of Hashomer HaChadash.
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Young Israeli volunteers rebuilding in the south after Oct. 7

Since Oct. 7, HaShomer HaChadash, a volunteer organization that works to safeguard the land and farms of Israel, has recruited some 250,000 volunteers.

“The residents of Kfar Aza haven’t been home for months. We’re here to make sure that they return to the beautiful kibbutz it was before the devastation,” said Assaf Ohayon, 18, from Moshav Shafir. 

Ohayon is one of six volunteers in Hashomer HaChadash’s “Alexander Zaid” youth leadership program, who pitched the project to rehabilitate the kibbutz’s green areas following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and got the authorization from the Israeli military to do so.

“After a day in Kfar Aza, I often feel emotional and humbled to have the opportunity to be part of the rebuilding,” fellow volunteer Oshrat Hollander, 18, from Beit Hashmonai, told JNS.

“I feel satisfied to be working the land, especially in a place that went through such a horrific disaster and that needs it so much. I feel complete,” she said.

Volunteers from Hashomer HaChadash help rebuild green areas at Kibbutz Kfar Aza near the Gaza Strip. Credit: Courtesy of Hashomer HaChadash.

Since Oct. 7, HaShomer HaChadash, a volunteer organization founded in 2007 that works to safeguard the land and farms of Israel, has recruited more than 250,000 volunteers.

“Understanding why we’re here, where we came from and what our future is in the Land of Israel is key in maintaining the land and the existence of the Jewish people in Israel,” said Uri Sapir, the organization’s chief operating officer.

“Our mission is to connect the hearts of the people of Israel and the Diaspora to the Land of Israel and actually do things for the land,” he added.  

The Alexander Zaid youth leadership program currently includes 80 young people, boys and girls, religious and secular, who volunteer all over the country in the aftermath of Oct. 7.

“Leadership is not telling other people what to do. It’s demonstrating to the society what they should do. As part of the Alexander Zaid youth leadership program, high school students from all over Israel meet every few weeks to volunteer with farmers,” said Sapir. 

“This program gives them a platform to travel the country, learn and become informed leaders and the figures of true Zionism and proactivity,” he continued.

Participants in Hashomer HaChadash’s Alexander Zaid youth leadership program work the land in Kfar Aza. Credit: Courtesy of Hashomer HaChadash.

As part of the Kfar Aza forest initiative, which was launched in March, 30 young people have taken part in rebuilding the forest, which includes a garden and playground for children.

Kfar Aza was the scene of some of Hamas’s worst atrocities on Oct. 7. Sixty-two members of the kibbutz were murdered; Alon Shamriz, 26, and Yotam Haim, 28, were kidnapped into Gaza, managed to escape from their Hamas captors and were mistakenly killed by Israeli forces in December, along with Samer Fouad Talalka, 22, who was abducted from Kibbutz Nir Am.

Only six of the kibbutz’s residents have returned to live full-time in Kfar Aza following Hamas’s terror assault, while hundreds remain displaced throughout Israel.

“On Passover, we brought wine and chocolate to show our support and raised our glasses to life. If we can do this, I believe there will be a bright future for the Jewish people in the north and in the south of Israel. We will do everything to make it happen together with the residents of the kibbutzim,” said Ruth Gabriely, 28, from Kibbutz Shomria, who oversees the project. 

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