Instead of French Jewish teen's first Israel visit, his terror victim cousin's funeral

Border Police officer Shiral Aboukrat and her brother in arms Yazan Falah, both 19 years old, were killed in Sunday’s terrorist attack in Hadera.

  Simon Aboukrat visits Israel (photo credit:  Courtesy of the Israel Experience)
Simon Aboukrat visits Israel
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Experience)

“I’ve been waiting for this trip for a very long time, going to Israel with my friends for the first time, but instead of getting to know the country, I’m going to my cousin’s funeral,” Simon Aboukrat said on Monday.

Border Police officer Shiral Aboukrat and her brother in arms Yazan Falah, both 19 years old, were killed in Sunday’s terrorist attack in Hadera. Shiral and her family made aliyah from France six years ago.

Simon is one of around a thousand students from 20 Jewish schools in France who began arriving in Israel yesterday, as part of the “High School Seniors in Blue and White” (Bac Bleu Blanc) project of the "Israel Experience" company, the education subsidiary of the Jewish Agency.

Simon, a student at the Alliance Israelite Universelle school in Les Pavillons-sous-Bois, outside Paris, said, “This is not my first time in Israel. I am glad that my friends are happy to be in Israel, but it is difficult for me to rejoice with them.”

“Our answer to the attack is to carry out our visit to Israel as planned − we will not allow the terrorists to defeat us,” says Yehuda Melloul, a teacher from the Yavné School in Marseille who is accompanying his students on their trip.

  Simon Aboukrat visits Israel (credit:  Courtesy of the Israel Experience) Simon Aboukrat visits Israel (credit: Courtesy of the Israel Experience)

Melloul, whose son serves in the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda Infantry Battalion, said the terrorists will not win and that despite the concerns, they will continue with their tour of Israel. “We spoke to the students and explained the situation to them. We asked that everyone look out for each other.”

“The challenge was not simple at all,” said Daniel Benhaim, director of Israel Experience’s Torah Division, which specializes in groups for the Orthodox community. “Registration for the program began at the height of the Delta wave, when the number of COVID-19 infections skyrocketed, and to ask parents for permission to send their children to another country was difficult. Despite the security situation, we were able to recruit around 1,000 students. This is a huge success during this period.”

During the “High School Seniors in Blue and White” program of 'Israel Experience', which has been in place since 2003, students will visit heritage sites and institutions of higher education, and take part in various leadership and volunteering programs, to offer them opportunities for integration in Israel after graduation.

Amos Hermon, CEO of the Israel Experience company that is organizing the program added: “On behalf of the students and educators from France and in the name of Simon Aboukrat, the cousin of a Border Police fighter of blessed memory who was murdered in the Hadera attack and who was among the students who came to Israel in the past, we will not give in to terror. We will continue with a program designed to allow the students to get to know Israel through its history and various educational and volunteering options, in order to strengthen their connection with the State of Israel.”