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Moshal scholar among 21 fallen heroes in Gaza



Rafael Elias Mosheyoff, one of the 21 soldiers tragically killed in Gaza on 23 January, had the world at his feet after a disadvantaged upbringing because of South African philanthropist Martin Moshal.

He was one of more than 1 000 young people from challenging, disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds in South Africa and Israel who were given an unparalleled opportunity as Moshal scholars to turn their lives around through higher education.

Mosheyoff was the perfect example one such young man who went on to achieve greatness because of the Moshal Program. After growing up in difficult circumstances, he had a rewarding job and a beloved wife and child.

But then 7 October happened, and Mosheyoff enlisted in the reserves to defend Israel and the Jewish people.

Moshal Program chief executive and programme manager, Tali Barash-Bouskila, says, “Rafael was tragically killed in the Gaza Strip at the age of 33, and with his death, one of the impressive and promising individuals who joined the Moshal Program had their life cut short.

“Throughout our shared years, we were impressed by his talent, determination, and extraordinary life path,” she says. “If we were to describe Raphael in a few words, we would say that he never gave up.

“Rafael didn’t give up on hope when he immigrated from Colombia to Israel in his childhood, with a single mother and two younger siblings. He didn’t give up when he had to support his family financially during his teenage years; and he didn’t give up on his professional future when he chose to complete high school in spite of many challenges. After high school, Rafael enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces for meaningful military service in the Givati Brigade.

“In 2016, Rafael started an academic preparatory programme with the goal of being accepted into engineering studies. He excelled in the programme, and was admitted to one of the top engineering colleges in Israel, the Braude Academic College in Karmiel. We met Rafael during his preparatory studies and realised immediately that he was an exceptional young man with a challenging life story, determined to work hard and change his and his family’s life for the better.

“In the Moshal Program, students are committed to investing time and effort in their studies, just as Rafael did,” she says. “His unique energy, determination, inspirational charisma, and drive for success made Rafael one of its shining stars. He dedicated himself to his studies and excelled, ultimately securing a position at the Rafael Defense Company – yes, the names are the same – upon completing his studies. Parallel to his emerging career, Rafael didn’t settle for being a self-made success story, he decided to embrace one of the core values of our programme: to pay it forward and have a positive impact on others.

“Rafael therefore became a mentor to young children coming from challenging backgrounds. He supported them, shared his life story, and served as a source of inspiration and a role model.

“The Rafael Defense Company is a leading Israeli government-owned company that accepts only outstanding students after a rigorous selection process based on professional and personal interviews,” says Barash-Bouskila. “Rafael succeeded in all these challenges, and was highly respected and beloved in his work.

“The values that Rafael grew up with in his home and developed on the Moshal Program were honour, responsibility, hard work, and a commitment to excellence, all of which he applied to his career. Witnessing his personal and professional development was remarkable. He not only excelled in his work, but remained an active member of the Moshal Program’s community, contributing to the growth and well-being of fellow students and alumni.”

Knowing that he was serving in Gaza was harrowing for all who knew him. “We’re immensely proud of the dedication of our students and alumni in protecting the well-being of our citizens,” says Barash-Bouskila.

“Rafael, along with hundreds of our 1 500 Moshal students and alumni, was called up for reserve duty on 7 October 2023. He set aside his personal and professional aspirations, just as he had done his entire life, for the greater good. The Moshal Program team, which kept in touch with all students and alumni on the programme, prayed for their return, and we continue to do so. Unfortunately, Rafael, who was in our thoughts and prayers, won’t return.”

Upon hearing that he had been killed, she says, “There’s a famous Israeli song often played during memorial days titled A Single Human Tissue. Its lyrics go, “Because all of us are just a living human tissue. And if one of us fades away, something from us dies along and something else stays within him.”

“We’re all a single human tissue,” she says. “Losing an alumnus of the Moshal Program is like losing a child, a child we nurtured, loved, and gave everything to. Rafael was an extraordinary young man, and with his death, part of us also died.”

Her words were echoed in the condolence letter that Moshal sent the family, which he shared with the SA Jewish Report. “I feel no words can begin to do justice to the tragic loss of Rafael. He embodied all that we wish to see in our students – diligence, commitment, hard work, and leadership. His own future was tragically cut short. However, I believe all that he achieved in the short time allocated to him was greater than so many others given more time. He may no longer be with us, but he continues to pay it forward with all that he has achieved and his ultimate sacrifice.”

“Thousands came to pay their last respects and offer condolences to his grieving family,” says Barash-Bouskila. “Rafael deserves to be remembered for generations to come. In collaboration with his family, we’re working on the most dignified and sensitive way to commemorate him.

“The war that Israel embarked on in early October is a war of necessity,” she says. “Along with the hundreds of thousands of brave reserve soldiers, Rafael went to defend the Jewish people and our homeland – the only one we have – to prevent the horrors of 7 October from happening again, not only in Israel, but anywhere in the world.

“In facing the ruthless enemy that fate has thrown upon us, our soldiers are sacrificing their lives. We mourn Rafael’s death – a young and promising man with a bright future ahead of him – and we pray with all our heart for the swift return of the 136 captives still held by Hamas. Am Yisrael Chai!”

Mosheyoff leaves behind a young wife and a one-year-old child. “It’s crucial that his wife, Hadass, who is now left to raise their child alone, doesn’t bear the full economic burden alone,” says Barash-Bouskila. To enable Hadass to live a dignified life, support her family, and cope with the imminent loss, Rafael’s family has initiated a fundraising effort. Donations to support the family can be made at:

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