Meet Mr. Almog Aboukarat, a 36-year-old entrepreneur from Be’er Sheva in southern Israel. This week, we had the chance to chat with him about his experiences during the challenging times when Israel was embroiled in a conflict with Hamas. He shared an inspiring story of resilience and how he aided stranded Thai nationals amidst this crisis, demonstrating the remarkable impact of kindness and cooperation during adversity.
Mr. Almog spent over a decade in Thailand, where he not only managed a successful cosmetics shop but also became fluent in the Thai language. However, when the pandemic struck, he faced a difficult decision. He had to leave his business in Thailand and return to Israel with his Thai wife. His story raises the question of whether this might be a silver lining in it all.
Almog Aboukarat: Sharing Unfiltered Story of Helping the Thai People in Israel
When the terrorist organization – Hamas launched a sudden assault and a massacre in the Gaza Strip, it came to our attention that approximately 5,000 stranded Thai workers were in need of assistance.
I felt a strong sense of duty and a sincere desire to assist. The Thai community in Israel was vulnerable, with limited knowledge of English or Hebrew. I promptly volunteered to support all Thai nationals in Israel, particularly those who had witnessed the attacks by terrorists in the border Kibbutzim near Gaza.
The Thai community in Israel faced a significant impact from the conflict, with over 30 casualties and more than 50 individuals kidnapped by Hamas. In addition, 1,500 people were exposed to the violence and its aftermath, leaving many traumatized. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, including hotel owners, and donations from the Jewish community in Be’er Sheva, we were able to assist in evacuating around 3,500 people from the southern region to a safer area, providing them with essential resources such as food, clothing, and hygiene supplies.
At this point, thanks to our efforts, there are only a few Thais remaining in the southern area. Most of those who worked in the dangerous zone have made the decision to either return to Thailand or relocate to safer work areas in Israel. For those who have chosen to stay in the south, we continue to provide them with essential food and supplies. They have also received their September salaries and are now working in secure locations, ensuring their well-being. One remarkable survivor among them, who endured a harrowing ordeal, was discharged in good health from Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva a few days ago.
We established a WhatsApp group and a civil charity organization with dedicated volunteers to address the various needs of the Thai community. We took on the task of resolving any issues that emerged for the Thais. Our primary focus was on evacuating them from the conflict zones, where we worked in coordination with the Israeli army and the Thai embassy, often putting our lives at risk to ensure their safety. Through these efforts, we successfully rescued and evacuated thousands of individuals. Some are still waiting for free rescue flights, which both the Israeli and Thai governments have generously provided to all Thai citizens in Israel. To manage the large number of evacuees, we’ve even utilized daily flights, including those from Thai domestic airlines not typically involved in international operations.
I utilized my private vehicle, a spacious jeep, to transport all the donations contributed by kind-hearted individuals, including Jewish community members and Thai friends of my wife. Together, we pooled funds to purchase essential supplies. Additionally, everyone willingly offered their own stock of Thai products, including special sauces, dried Thai food, and items brought from Thailand specifically for use in Israel. Once the vehicle was fully loaded, it became a mobile storehouse packed with food, clothing, and hygiene products, ready to be delivered to those in need.
What were the key challenges you faced when evacuating and assisting the affected individuals?
Navigating the situation presented a formidable challenge. The region was a closed military zone, constantly targeted by missile launches from Gaza. In the initial days, the presence of hostile militants engaged in combat with the Israeli army added an extra layer of risk to our efforts to reach the stranded Thais. These individuals were left without essential supplies, as their employers had been evacuated due to the conflict, leaving them without their September salaries.
Despite the complexity and difficulty of accessing these areas, we were determined to reach them. Eventually, our efforts paid off, thanks in no small part to the assistance of the Israeli government, which facilitated the safe evacuation of the Thais. Additionally, they provided support by covering the costs of accommodating the Thai nationals in hotels in Tel Aviv, ensuring their well-being during these trying times.
How did you go about organizing the supply of food, clothing, and hygiene products for them?
We took to social media to share our efforts in aiding the Thai community in Israel, and the response was overwhelming. Each day, we received numerous inquiries for assistance. Some sought help with translations and understanding their rights, while others were eager to relocate to safer workplaces. There were also those who simply needed a brief respite from the hardships they had endured.
Recognizing that every Thai national had unique needs, we made it a priority to provide them with tailored assistance. We teamed up with Thai women living in Israel, who were married to Israelis and proficient in Hebrew, to offer valuable support. We offered them not only guidance but also a comforting presence, extending warm, heartfelt gestures to those in need. These are just a few examples of the ways we endeavored to help the Thai community during these challenging times.
Could you share any specific stories or experiences that had a significant impact on you during this humanitarian mission?
I’d like to highlight a particular individual named Mitchai, hailing from Sakon Nakhon in Isan, Thailand. He ventured to Israel for employment and tragically became a survivor of a horrifying attack by the Hamas terrorists who shot him five times.
We paid a visit to Mitchai at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva, and during our visit, we had the privilege of meeting a renowned Thai journalist who was there to capture the survivor’s story on film and conduct interviews, subsequently providing valuable coverage for the Thai media.
Mitchai typically works on a farm located in Kibbutz Alumim, near the border close to Bari and Nahal Oz. We asked him to recount the events of that fateful day, and this is what he shared…
“On our day off, I and ten other Thai friends were preparing breakfast in the morning. The sounds of gunfire and explosions were a familiar backdrop, as IDF bases were nearby. Initially, we didn’t perceive anything amiss until the horrifying sight of a friend’s severed head rolling into our kitchen shook us to the core. Shocked and bewildered, we glimpsed the ominous barrel of a weapon through the kitchen door, prompting us to sprint for the safety of the MMD (the safe room).While some of us made it to the MMD, others were unfortunate victims of gunfire during their escape attempt. Inside the MMD, the terrorists persisted in their relentless assault, launching grenades and setting fire to everything in their path. Eventually, I made a daring decision to flee through a window, running as swiftly as I could. However, the terrorists, numerous and relentless, targeted me with five bullets until I fell to the ground. Throughout this harrowing ordeal, I remained motionless, feigning death, as the terrorists believed me to be deceased, eventually moving on. I lay still until the Israeli army arrived, marking the moment of my rescue, and my subsequent journey to Soroka Hospital, where I was miraculously saved.”
He stands as the lone survivor among his fellow co-workers, all of whom suffered a tragic fate. May the memory of those lost be forever blessed.
The views and opinions expressed in this written interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of the publisher of this interview. Please note that the interviewee’s statements have been edited and proofread for grammatical correctness and accuracy by Indo Thai News.
As of October 31, the Israel-Hamas conflict has led to the unfortunate loss of 32 Thai lives, with 19 individuals sustaining injuries, and 22 being held captive by the militant group. In response to the situation, 7,891 Thai nationals have returned from Israel. The government is actively encouraging more Thai workers to come back by offering a package that includes 50,000 baht in compensation and a 150,000-baht soft loan for each returning individual.
Ensuring the safety of civilians is our utmost priority. Indo Thai News advocates for the urgent release of all hostages, regardless of their nationality and religion. We also support an immediate ceasefire and uninterrupted access to aid to ensure that everyone can safely receive assistance on a large scale. Let’s embrace the path of peace.