“Our Nathanel was a hero to the Jewish people”

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“Our Nathanel was a hero to the Jewish people”

Family of 20-year-old former JFS student killed by Hamas on Saturday want him remembered for his love of Israel and commitment to its defence, writes Sandy Rashty

Natanel with his mum and siblings on last day of training. Pic: Young family
Natanel with his mum and siblings on last day of training. Pic: Young family

The oldest sister of former JFS student Nathanel Young has described him as a “a hero of the Jewish people” in her first full interview since he was killed. Aged just 20, Nathanel died during a raid by terrorist group Hamas in the early hours of Saturday. Only seven members of his 30-strong Golan 13 Brigade are said to have survived.

More than 1,200 Israelis are confirmed dead, with many injured and hundreds more missing, killed or kidnapped into Gaza, including 17 British nationals. But for the Young family, there is a commitment to calling on the British Jewish community to remember Nathanel’s love for Israel, and to do what they can to support IDF soldiers and civilians who are deeply affected by the ongoing crisis.

Gaby, who spoke to her brother Nathanel, minutes before he died, wants him to be remembered for what he is: “A hero of the Jewish people.”

Born in Southgate into an observant Jewish family, Nathanel always has a strong relationship with the community and Israel. He attended Wolfson Hillel Primary School, had his barmitzvah at Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue and went to JFS, the largest Jewish school in Europe.

He loved his family, friends, pet dog Oreo and was determined to pursue a career in music. Hence his nickname, DJ.

Natanel with his sister Gaby. Pic: Young family

Gaby, the eldest of the five Young siblings, remembers playing garage music to her baby brother, 18 years her junior. It clearly had an impact, because later on he would host large gatherings of JFS students and play the 90s dance music.

“I would play garage music when he was a baby,” she laughs. “That’s how he knew it and he revived it at these JFS parties. There are five of us children, I’m the eldest and he’s the youngest. There are 18 years between us but we were always still close, despite the age gap.” She says that as a young child he was always a cheeky monkey. “A lobbus,” says Gaby. “That’s the word that comes to mind.

Nathanel studied music at a college in London after leaving JFS, but the pull to make aliyah was strong.

Gaby recalls: “He had a passion for so many things. He loved his dog, music and fashion, he had a massive trainer collection. He had more shoes than me, and I have a lot. But he left it all behind to move to Israel.

Pic: Young family

“That was his real passion, he wanted to be in Israel. So he left everything, his career, his [DJ] decks, everything. He was only going to live in Israel for one year, but once he was there, he just didn’t want to come back to England.”

He moved to Israel in 2021, officially making aliyah last year. He worked at the Hilton Tel Aviv, was a dog walker by day and by night, a DJ at popular Tel Aviv nightclubs. His Hebrew was fluent, better even than Gaby’s, who has lived in Israel for a decade.

“He would laugh at how I still spoke Hebrew with an English accent,” she recalls. “He was speaking with an Israeli accent after no time.

“He managed to pursue all his passions in Israel,” she says. “He was doing everything he could to make aliyah and join the army as a lone soldier. He wanted to fight for Israel and protect the people of Israel. He was passionate about so many things, but more than anything he was passionate about defending Israel.”

Pic: Young family

She recalls visiting him at his IDF base. “He was so proud to show me around. Every single person who saw Nat would shout: ‘Hi DJ’ when he would walk past. People were just always so excited to see him.”

After joining the IDF in July, Nathanel, known as Uncle Nat Nat to his nieces, spent a month in London catching up with family and friends, instead of using the last period before his expected three-year service to travel the world.

“He wanted to spend the summer with our family and his friends. There’s such a special connection between Nathanel and my mum, he wanted to be with her.”

After being in the IDF for just one month and completing his training, Nathanel was killed during a raid on his base.

Gaby, who is six months pregnant with twins, is still processing the news.

At around 6:30am on Saturday, she heard the siren go off from her home in Tel Aviv. She thought it was a mistake, because it came out of nowhere.

Within two minutes, her little brother phoned her as she ran to the shelter with her young family. “Nat called to ask if we were okay,” she says. “He told me he was at his base on the border with Gaza and that he was being told to get his stuff. We couldn’t really hear each other so we started sending messages on WhatsApp. I sent him messages telling him to be strong, with ‘muscle’ emojis. I told him to put his extra gear on and that God would protect him. He said they might have to go into Gaza.”

By 7am, Gaby’s messages had stopped going through.

“There were no blue ticks after 7am,” she says. “I was optimistic, I thought the unit had been told to turn their phones off. I was trying to find out where he was, I saw the news about infiltration into Israel, but I didn’t really know how bad the situation was.

“Later, someone told me he had been taken to a hospital. I was kind of relieved, because he was in the hospital. I thought he was being treated for an injury or something.”

Gaby and Nathanel’s brother Eliot, who also lives in Israel, tried to speak to a hospital they were told he had been taken to. Eliot, who has two daughters, searched the hospital for Nathanel for four hours.

Soon, Gaby knew something was wrong and spent the evening working at her marketing job as a form of distraction.

Early on Sunday, at around 1am, she received a knock on the door from IDF officers, and it was then that she knew what had happened. “They told us he didn’t make it,” she says, going silent.

Before the attack on Israel, Nathanel’s parents, who were observant, had been on holiday in France. By Sunday evening, the family were all in Israel, planning the funeral at the airport.

This week, more than 2,000 people gathered at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl to pay their respects to Nathanel. In the middle of Gaby’s eulogy, the rocket warning siren went off and the family had to cower on the ground as terrorist rockets were aimed at Israeli civilians.

“I said something about it being a rude interruption,” Gaby recalls. “It sounds weird to say, but it felt like an inconvenience – like a rocket is nothing compared to everything else going on.

“After the siren, we carried on. I said: ‘I am going to finish my speech and give Nat the honour he deserves.’”

She added: “So many of his friends have spoken to us, they’re falling to pieces. We have heard so many stories about how Nat would go out of his way for other people. He would pay the equivalent of a £50 cab ride to see a friend at a gig.

“He would use every spare moment to see his four nieces, two are my daughters and two are my brother Eliot’s. Even if he was only off the base for 36 hours, he would come and see us.

“He would walk through the door, lift up the girls and bring them loads of presents. He was so much fun. He would tell all his friends about his nieces.

“Last week, he received a gift card for the chagim for around £100, and he asked me what shoe size my five and three-year-old daughters were. That’s the person he was.

“His main aim in life was to one day get a lot of money, so he could buy a house with a pool for my mum. He would read books on how to be successful financially. He wanted money, to give it to other people.”

Now, the parents of Nathanel Young, Chantel and Nicky Young, are moving to Israel next month, permanently.

And Gaby says the support of the British Jewish community has made its mark. “The support is really felt and has given us a lot of comfort. We are managing to pull through with the support of people from Israel, England, from olim, from messages we are seeing, from people saying we can use holiday homes that aren’t being lived in. We have messages from Israel’s music community who knew Nat.”

And whilst she cannot speak for Nathanel anymore, Gaby does have a call.

“We are urging British Jews to be united with Israel.

“This has nothing to do with politics. The situation in Israel is now beyond politics, it’s about humanity and it’s about people.”

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