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Destroyed dreams: Nepalis mourn relatives killed in Israel

Destroyed dreams: Nepalis mourn relatives killed in Israel

On a small farm in Nepal, a weeping father mourns the lost dreams of his 25-year-old son, among the 10 Nepali agriculture students massacred in the Hamas assault on Israel.

It was only last month that Ashish Chaudhary’s family had been celebrating his hopes of building a better life, after he joined Israel’s 11-month ‘Learn and Earn’ work-study scheme.

“I thought... it would be good for him and his bright future,” his father Bejhulal Dangaura told AFP with tears in his eyes. “If I had known about this danger, I would have stopped him.”

Chaudhary was among the 10 Nepali students killed when Palestinian Islamist group Hamas launched its Oct 7 attack on Israel, stabbing, shooting and burning to death more than 1,400 people. The attack—the worst in Israel’s history—sparked a retaliatory assault on Gaza that has killed around 3,000 people there, most of them civilians.

At Israel’s Kibbutz Alumim, close to the Gaza border, Chaudhary was among the 10 Nepali farming students killed by Hamas’s grenade explosions and intense gunfire.

Four other Nepalis were injured, and one student is missing. Distraught relatives in Nepal—a majority-Hindu Himalayan nation over 4,500 kilometers (2,795 miles) from the bloodshed—are reeling from the loss.

Chaudhary had planned to return home next year. His dream was to use his savings and the skills learned from Israel’s high-tech agriculture to launch a farming business in Nepal’s western Kailali district.

More than 3,000 Nepalis have joined the Israeli programme since its 2013 launch, being paid more in a year than what it would take a decade on average to earn at home.

Remittances are crucial for Nepal’s economy, equalling nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP last year, the ninth-highest rate globally, according to the World Bank.

‘River of blood’

Before the attack, around 4,500 Nepalis were estimated to be working in Israel, many as caregivers. About 200 students were on the ‘Learn and Earn’ program, which allows them to learn new skills while working on farms in Israel.

Parents who poured their life savings into educating their child—hoping they could then bring the whole family out of poverty—have had their dreams crushed.

“I did not let anything go missing from his life since his childhood. All love their children and want to give them a good education. We brought him to this point,” his father Dangaura said.

Dangaura had taken out loans to send his son to college, using his home and small shop as collateral. Students like Chaudhary expect to earn up to $15,000 for their work in Israel, a lucrative opportunity with Nepal’s annual average income just $1,400.

His death came just as “he wanted to earn and take care of us”, Dangaura said.

“He was happy. He had many dreams... He used to tell me: ‘Don’t worry, I will take care of everything,’” his sister Amrita Devi Dangaura said, as she burst into tears while consoling her parents.

“We are left with neither any business nor farmland nor our family’s son.” Durga Neupane, aunt of another student Narayan Prasad Neupane killed, said she would struggle to comprehend his death until she saw his dead body.

“It feels like it’s not real,” she said. “He used to say that he would return home and build a concrete house. Now, even his body is not here.”

Nepal last week sent a rescue flight for 254 citizens, with 200 others waiting to return.

Dhan Bahadur Chaudhary, 26, injured by a grenade blast, was among those who returned. He saw his friends shot dead and others bleed to death. “I can’t sleep well at night,” he told reporters as he arrived at the airport in the capital Kathmandu. “I dream of my friends. I only see blood, I see a river of blood.”