News & Events

From Darkness to Light: Flames of Memory and Hope

Mandel faculty and graduates remember the fallen and murdered members of the Mandel community: Moshe Ohayon, Dr. Hayim Katsman, Ofir Libstein, Shlomi Mathias, and Dr. Eitan Neeman

Cover art: photo of flame by Sofie Berzon MacKieCover image by Mandel graduate Sofie Berzon MacKie, a survivor of the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri

“Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated in the darkest period of the year – in the winter month of Kislev, when light diminishes and darkness reaches its peak. The darkest day on the Israeli calendar, however, occurred this year on the previous Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, on the seventh of October. Since then, we have all been trying to increase the light.” With these words, Rabbi Mishael Zion, faculty member of the Mandel Leadership Institute, opened a special memorial booklet published by the Mandel Foundation in honor of Hanukkah.

The booklet pays tribute to five members of the Mandel community who were killed on that fateful Saturday: Moshe Ohayon, a graduate of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership and the founding director of the Mandel Program for Social Leadership in the North; Dr. Hayim Katsman, a fellow of the Mandel Program for Cultural Leadership in the Negev; Ofir Libstein, head of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council and a graduate of Mandel Program for Regional Leadership in Beer Sheva; musician Shlomi Mathias, also a graduate of the Mandel Program for Regional Leadership in Beer Sheva; and Dr. Eitan Neeman, a fellow in the Mandel Program for Medical Leadership for the Negev.

Print copies of the booklet, together with a beautiful silver Hanukkah menorah, were presented to the bereaved families as a tribute and gift from the Mandel Foundation, and digital copies were sent to over 2,000 members of the Mandel community.

Alongside the tributes to the five fallen members of our community, the booklet presents three additional tributes, in honor of the families of the kidnapped, of the communities of survivors, and of the enlisted soldiers. These tributes represent eight flames, one for each night of Hanukkah, and are followed by the “shamash” (the “helper candle”) – a circle of hope saluting all of Israeli society. The booklet is illustrated with photographs of life in the Western Negev that were taken before and after October 7 – works of art created by Mandel graduates and artists from the Western Negev.

In their opening words, Professor Jehuda Reinharz, President and CEO of the Mandel Foundation, and Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Mandel Foundation–Israel, explain the background for the booklet:

"Sixty days ago, on Simchat Torah, we experienced a black Saturday. For the last two months, we have been mourning, questioning, seeking consolation, and finding it hard to believe what has happened. At the same time, like the rest of Israeli society, we have stepped forward to act. Mandel graduates from all years of our programs, supported by the Foundation’s resources and those of other organizations, immediately set out to help –  some in the army and security forces, some in public service and local government, and some in civil society. They are assisting the citizens of Israel and anyone in need in every possible way and in a very impressive manner. We have met with many graduates during this period and have been impressed by their initiatives. To our graduates from across Israel, we say: You are doing wonderful things, with remarkable dedication and great resourcefulness, motivated by a sense of duty. The Mandel Foundation is proud of its graduates and employees and of their actions. We mourn the loss of our fellows and graduates, and of the members of their families who were murdered on that fateful Saturday. On this Hanukkah, the festival of lights, we are illuminating the darkness around us a bit more and remembering them all."

​​In his words at the end of the booklet, Miki Nevo, director of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the North, writes:

"From where I stand, every day I see one candle joining another. Light is joining light. Candles of all the shades of Israeli society illuminate our path together, forming a diversified whole that is greater and brighter than the sum of its parts. A jug of oil feeds the flames that are in all our hearts. It is not empty; in the space between darkness and light, between breakage and repair, that is where hope lies. We are not hoping for a miracle at this time; rather, it will be a great effort – a great light of commitment to the good and to repair. All the candles are together, all the time. And all the while, we examine how to continue; we don’t ask whether to continue, but only how to continue – with all the candles together.”

The booklet was edited by Rabbi Mishael Zion, faculty member of the Mandel Leadership Institute and founder of the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture; Professor Dana Arieli, senior staff member of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev; Maya Bozo-Schwartz, director of the Mandel Graduate Unit; and Yonit Naaman, a graduate of Cohort 18 of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership. The cover image is by Sofie Berzon MacKie, a graduate of the Mandel Program for Cultural Leadership for the Negev and survivor of the attack on Kibbutz Be’eri, and the booklet was designed by Tamar Lev Eliyahu.

Read the Hebrew booklet >>​

Five members of the Mandel community who lost their lives on October 7th Top row (left to right): Shlomi Mathias, Dr. Hayim Katsman and Moshe Ohayon. Bottom row (left to right): Dr. Eitan Neeman and Ofir Libstein, may their memory be a blessing.