Fighting Racism and Remembering Yoel Lhangal z"l
Educators at Dror Israel were shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic murder of Yoel Lhangal z”l on October 7th. Yoel, was an 18 year old resident of the northern city of Nof HaGalil, who along with his family, made aliyah to Israel only one year ago from their home in northern India.
While the details of the terrible murder are still under investigation, it is believed that Yoel was the victim of group violence with racist motivations. A group of teenagers and young adults attacked Yoel outside of a birthday party, leaving and returning to the scene multiple times to continue the attack.
Yoel was a part of the Bnei Menashe (Children of Menasseh) community whose ancestors are believed to have been one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who settled in modern day northeastern India. There are currently more than 5,000 members of the community in Israel in northern and southern cities with more than 4,500 waiting in India to make aliyah to Israel.
Educators from Dror Israel visited and paid their respects to the Lhangal family during their period of mourning, learning more about the teenager and his dream of joining the Israeli Defense Forces to serve and protect his country. Motivated by what they had learned about the Bnei Menashe community and the challenges many face in Israel in terms of racism at the hands of other Jewish Israelis, the Dror Israel educators began to plan an educational response.
Over the past month, lesson plans were sent to over 5,000 teachers in schools all over Israel, drawing attention to the tragic event. Through the lesson, students were exposed to the rich culture and history of the Bnei Menashe community and became aware of the circumstances of Yoel’s murder - a fate which could have been prevented by just one of the many bystanders to the crime.
Shmulik Levi, a Dror Israel educator and supervisor of the Democracy Month educational workshops that occurred across the country explained that, in the lesson, students understand the role each individual has in creating a democratic and safe society, no matter the differences (real or perceived) that may exist between them.
“In classroom after classroom, we asked students what it takes to stand up for justice and not to just follow the herd. We spoke together about the difficulties involved in speaking up and the challenges many students face doing this in their day to day interactions.”
Levi continues “I hope that Yoel’s memory can serve as a lesson for all of Israeli society about the responsibility each individual has in making each community and our society as a whole a safe place for all.”