“A Life Changing Experience”/Shabbos in Australia and After…

Shabbos came in with great beauty in the Land Down Under and our Chabad Terror Victims Project (CTVP) ten wounded Israeli soldiers were welcomed with open arms by the Jewish community in Melbourne.


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Shabbos came in with great beauty in the Land Down Under and our Chabad Terror Victims Project (CTVP) ten wounded Israeli soldiers were welcomed with open arms by the Jewish community in Melbourne. 

“It was a life changing experience…” is how one of the guests at the South Caulfield Shabbaton described the Friday evening.  Over 200 guests joined the kehillah for davening followed by a special Shabbos meal to express their deep gratitude to our ten wounded Israeli soldiers. 

Rabbi Yacov Barber carried one of the soldiers, Shmuel Mashasha, on his shoulders into the dining hall, followed by all the other soldiers, as the 200 guests stood as one and began a spirited  ‘haveinu shalom alechem’ to usher them in. 

Rabbi Menachem Kutner and I gave the opening remarks, thanking the community for their warmth and their tremendous welcome to our group. I introduced each soldier by name and asked all the guests to say as one, “Am Yisroel Chai” after each introduction. 

Six of our soldiers shared their personal experiences with the guests. After each soldier spoke, all the guests felt they had heard the ultimate in inspiration. Until the next soldier told his story and then, to a person, everyone listening expressed their tremendous respect and how they moved they were by what they were hearing and seeing, how each story was so incredibly inspiring. 

A number of the guests addressed the soldiers, sharing warm words of gratitude and HaKaras HaTov and then asked questions which the soldiers gladly answered.  

The atmosphere was one of warmth and brotherly love and the strong currents of emotion were palpable to all.  The shul hall was decorated beautifully and the food was absolutely delicious.  As one of the soldiers said “It’s like a chassunah!

The soldiers kept thanking everyone and asking, “Who is this all for? Really for us?”   

The 200 guests mingled and spoke with the soldiers and the interactions between them were enjoyed by everyone. Many l’chaims were shared by all as Rabbi Barber wished the soldiers long life and expressed the fervent wish that they should all have the courage to dream and that their dreams will all come true. 

After a beautiful Shabbos and a very moving Havdalah, we went immediately to a unique Australian experience called a footie game. This is Australian football, which is similar to U.S. football except that the players do not wear any protective gear.  

We were the guests of the President of one of the teams. He is the only Jewish owner of any footie team. The Bulldogs won by an unbelievable 100 points. This was a record for the team and the owner attributed it to us being there! After the game we had the opportunity to visit the locker rooms and meet the team and to take photographs. The soldiers also received T-shirts of the team which were autographed by the different players they met.

On Sunday we went to the Great Ocean Road, which, as you can see by the photos accompanying this article is a stunningly beautiful, and chilly, place to visit. 

With best wishes,

Yossi Swerdlov 

To be Continued…

Today’s Soldiers in the Spotlight: Snir Azlan and Shmuel Mashasha

Snir Azlan is 20 years old and comes from Kiryat Atta. He also serves in Regiment 13 of the Golani Brigade and was wounded at the same time as Netanel Mizrachi. 

During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Snir’s right hand was blown off and literally left hanging by a thread to his arm. There were many injuries that day and Snir at first did not seem to be one of the critical ones. But he knew how serious it was and when a paramedic went by he grabbed him with his good arm. The medic realized immediately how serious Snir’s wounds were and applied a tourniquet. 

Snir was evacuated by tank to the border and from there by helicopter to Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan. Since then he has undergone eight operations, with a plate and bones transplanted in his hand. Thank G‑d, the doctors succeeded in re-attaching his hand back and the nerves are working. 

He is still hospitalized in rehabilitation and undergoes daily painful and difficult physiotherapy. At this time he still does not have full use of the hand but Snir is possessed of a strong will to regain his health. 

We salute Snir and offer our prayers and hopes that this courageous young man will regain full use of his hand. 

Shmuel Mashasha is 26 years old and comes from Rishon LeZion. Shmuel immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia and in the army he served as an officer in a combat engineering unit. 

While on active duty, his vehicle was fired on and he took a direct hit to the leg. The leg was cut off beneath the knee and Shmuel was helicoptered to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva. During his first two weeks there he underwent four operations. 

Shmuel was subsequently transferred to Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan where he has undergone another eight operations. During his rehabilitation, he has learned to get around on a prosthesis. He is able to walk but with ongoing pain.  

Shmuel is a very active and determined young man. After he finished rehab, he wanted to prove, mainly to himself, that he can still give of himself. So he returned to serve in the army in positions of command. A year and a half ago he was released from the army and is now continuing his studies toward a university degree. He also still has physiotherapy treatments. 

We salute Shmuel for his courage, his determination and his great love and devotion to Israel. We wish him all the best luck in pursuing his career. 

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