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Achim L’Chaim, Brothers for Life

Original article written for Australian Jewish News by Carol Saffer

The soldiers are members of Achim L’Chaim, Brothers for Life, a not-for-profit organisation, started and run by injured Israeli soldiers whose mission is to support other soldiers injured in combat.

Brothers for Life second delegation arrives in Melbourne.

Several Melbourne families were recently privileged to be part of a week-long program hosting a group of 12 former and current injured Israeli soldiers.

The soldiers, injured in combat, are members of Achim L’Chaim, Brothers for Life, a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2008, started and run by injured Israeli soldiers whose mission is to support other soldiers injured in combat. This year, most of those on the program were injured on or after October 7, 2023.

Sending soldiers from Israel to Jewish communities around the world is one of more than 25 programs Brothers for Life offers its members to help them heal, reclaim their lives and address their traumas.

Until October 7, the organisation supported over 1300 soldiers and their families. However, since October 7, Brothers for Life (BFL) hospital teams have met with over 1200 injured soldiers and are in the process of absorbing the first 700 into the organisation. Each injured soldier is met while recovering by a previously injured soldier as part of this impactful program. The injuries faced by soldiers in BFL range from physical to emotional, including many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is the second delegation to visit Australia. Prior delegations have visited the United States, Canada, the UK and South Africa. Of all the programs offered, international delegations like these are the most transformative for the soldiers, said Ohad Poraz, BFL team and lead “brother” on the recent mission. One of the highlights of the week was visits to Jewish schools where they shared their stories, some for the first time.

A note from the staff at Bialik College said, “These soldiers are truly inspirational. During these difficult times, it is so important for the Jewish youth of the Diaspora to strengthen their connection with Israel, and the [BFL soldiers] certainly made that possible.”

Ori Assouline, a 22-year-old soldier stationed at Nachal Oz base in the South near the border with Gaza and injured on October 7 after a fight for his life, shared his story with the senior school students at Bialik and again at a community event for over 200 people. Assouline said, “One of the experiences I remember most is that I got to stand twice in front of a stage of 250-300 people and just pour my heart into the microphone.”

Reflecting on the program, he said, “I went to the Melbourne delegation with 11 other wounded fighters that I had never met before and went to stay with a family in a Jewish community that I had never heard of. And I’ve never felt so much belonging, that they understand you in a glance, that a hug from them is worth so much. Dealing with PTSD is not an easy thing, the nightmares at night, the thoughts that don’t stop floating, the lack of sleep that doesn’t stop, the inability to concentrate for more than a few seconds on one thing and the worst is sweating every time you talk about it. And yet I found peace and quiet and joy on the other end of the world.”

Not only did this trip provide an opportunity for the injured soldiers to have some much-needed time away from Israel to recover, be supported, be showered with hugs and love and shown appreciation for the sacrifices they had made, but it also enriched the lives of the host families who, after this transformative experience, now have close bonds with the soldiers that will last a lifetime.

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