Children at One Family Camp Share Stories of Progress and Recovery
One Family camp gives bereaved children a chance to come together for a week of fun times and exciting activities. It also lets them spend that time processing their loss, sharing their stories, and learning new coping strategies.
To set the tone, this year’s theme was “progress” – exploring how far the children have come in their recovery.
“For many of the children, progress is a very difficult idea. They feel stuck most of the time,” said Ofir Elgrabli, head of the Youth Division. “So we created programs to help them see that they have moved forward and to think about what has helped them in that process.”
That reflection culminated in the Gala Event at the end of camp, when all of the different divisions come together and some of the children stand up and tell their stories. “We are all different ages and come from different backgrounds,” said May, 15, the event’s co-MC, whose father was killed in the Second Lebanon War. “But tonight, all our stories merge into one big story that contains all of our personal stories.”
Ayelet lost her father in the Second Intifada, when she was only 7 months old. “I do not remember my father and for many years I did not allow myself to feel the pain. Because, why would it hurt? Why should I miss someone I do not know? And every time a feeling came, I immediately blocked it. I did not give it space.
“During my time here in One Family, mainly thanks to my friends – some of whom are just like me – I learned to let myself feel. I learned to give my pain a place. I learned that I too was allowed to long for my father even if I don’t quite understand why. I’m allowed to care.”
Shira’s father was killed in a road shooting. “Terrorists ambushed us and fired more than 200 bullets at our vehicle. My father was murdered on the spot. The rest of the family remained unharmed,” she said.
“I will not lie to you, I am surprised that I am standing here talking to you. In my whole life, I never imagined such a situation,” she said. “It’s hard for me to share and translate words that are in my heart. But as I’ve grown, I have come to understand how important it is to express myself, even if it’s difficult. And in my case it is very difficult.”
During the final event, all four Shaer sisters took the stage together to speak about the experience of losing their brother Gilad, one of the three teens who were kidnapped and killed in 2014.
“Over the years I realized that I wanted to really deal with bereavement, to progress in my own way and not just let life pass me by,” one of the sisters said. “In this organization, I learned to speak, to say what’s good, what hurts and what I need – because this place truly makes things possible.
“Everything I say or feel is met with understanding and inclusion,” she continued. “I can just be me in my own way and that’s all anyone wants.”
Ron lost her brother four years ago in Operation Protective Edge. She came to her first camp a short time later, and this year she reflected on the progress she made in those four years.
“I look at Ron then and Ron today, I see two completely different people,” she said. “I arrived shy and closed up. I did not know what bereavement was or how One Family fit into my life.
“Today I’m a more grown up version of Ron, more open, better able to speak from the heart and express an opinion,” she continued. “Most importantly, bereavement is part of me, but not the only part, and I know how to integrate it into life.”
Moriah spoke about the process she went through since her older brother Eliav was murdered two years ago. “When my brother was killed, I thought that if I dealt with bereavement and mourning, I would fall and shatter. I was really scared. I did not want to look weak, so I repressed it and just carried on with my life.”
Things started to change, she said, when she received a phone call from a coordinator from One Family inviting her to join the Youth Division. “I was excited to join One Family. At the same time, I was also afraid,” she said. “I realized that if I went and felt that I belonged here, then it must be that I’m a bereaved sister. I understood I was choosing not to deny the reality anymore.
Still, she said, she was apprehensive about attending her first event, not ready to dive into deep discussions about bereavement. “Gradually, I discovered that here we are simply together, living life, and learning to live with our bereavement. I met others like me, who are dealing with the same thing.
“From the time that I came here, I started to move forward,” she added. “I felt that I may have lost a brother but I gained many brothers and sisters.
“My group has become an inseparable part of me and of my life. For me, this is where it I started to move, to live with the truth without repressing it, to learn how to live with it intensely, and how to transform the pain into growth.
“If in the beginning I thought I had to choose between living and bereavement, today I understand that it all comes together, that slowly we learn to live with the bereavement, and even live well.”
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A personal story of a battle against terror
“By Seeing the Good in Life, I am Winning My Battle Against Terror”
My name is Orit . I am from Otniel and grew up in a big, happy family. I have nine brothers and sisters. I am in the middle.
On 1 July, 2016, the unthinkable happened.
My parents went for a drive with two of my siblings. Terrorists met them on the way and shot more than 27 bullets at their car.
My father , Rabbi Michael ‘Mikki’ Mark was murdered, my mother Chavi was seriously injured, and my brother and sister were hurt.
My mother and father met when they were 13 years old. They were the perfect couple, so special and pure. They completed each other and now everything has changed. Forever.
Our mother and our father brought us up with values of respect, love and caring for others. My father was a rabbi and director of the yeshiva in Otniel. He had a unique and open mind. He greeted everyone with a smile and accepted everyone for who they were.
It still seems unreal that my father has gone. The week of the shiva was a chaotic week that seemed like it would never end. We were lucky to have so many special people visit us in our home, while my father watches all this beauty from up in the clouds. So special, so many people helped us, so many supported us, so many gave us strength. Among them, people from One Family. This amazing organization who has stood by us, taught us how to continue, how to continue the ways of our father and how to teach us about our own inner strengths.
The attack changed everything
Our lives will never be the same. My father is no longer with us and my mother, was so badly injured that she is unable to be the mother she once was. She was completed by my father and now she is slowly learning to cope on her own.
Our mother was in hospital in Israel for 3 months. She lost an eye in the attack and had to have many surgeries to her head and neck. She also then traveled to the US with my brother where she had several surgeries to her face and brain. She is a heroine.
Since the attack, my older sister and her husband has moved into our family home to look after the youngest in the family, even though our mother is now home, she unable to do what she used to for all of us.
We all make sure to spend Shabbat together, as when we are together, we feel that each of us has a part of father in us and his soul still lives on.
We are all different but our father taught us to respect our differences and be open minded. Our love and respect for each other is exactly what he would want- to support each other despite the differences.
Here too at One Family, I have met people from all walks of life. Religious and Irreligious. Young and Old, People from small towns like me and people from big cities like Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem. People who work high-tech to people who are stay home mothers and widows like my mom. Despite the differences, it gives me such strength that at One Family we all feel normal. It is the only place where I can feel true to myself, where in the same breath I can laugh and cry. It is a place where people truly understand me and accept me.
This experience has taught me that you don’t know what is going to happen to you from one day to the next- that life is unpredictable but despite all the difficulties in this new found reality, I have also learned to appreciate all the good in my life. And there is so much good. I love my family. I am now happily married. I enjoy seeing the beauty in the world around me. I am able to still laugh and smile. I take an optimistic approach and I know that is how my father would react too. He would still want us all to be happy.
For me, by being happy and seeing the good in life, I am winning my battle against the terrorists every single day.
It gives me so much strength to know there are people around the world who care about victims of terror and show their support. I take great strength in continuing the ways of my father and trying to continue lighting up the world in the same way that he did.
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Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, a mother of a baby only 16 months old, and Ziv Hajbi, 35, were brutally murdered in a shooting attack at the Barkan Industrial Park Sunday morning. The two were found tied up and mortally wounded in the office where they worked. Police believe they were shot at close range after being tied up.
Efforts to revive them were unsuccessful. Kim leaves behind her husband and baby. Ziv leaves behind his wife and three children under the age of 7. May their memories be a blessing.
A third victim, a 58-year-old woman, was seriously injured with a gunshot wound in the stomach. She had heard noise coming from the office and went to check what was happening. She was shot as she entered the room. Please pray for the full recovery of Sara bat Chava.
Medics who entered the room discovered the woman hiding under one of the desks but fully conscious. They treated her wound and evacuated her to a hospital. She arrived in serious but stable condition.
Both of the victims worked at the Alon Group recycling factory in the industrial park. Kim was a receptionist for the deputy CEO and Ziv was an accountant. The area had long been considered an oasis of coexistence between Jews and Arabs. More than 8,000 people work in the area, half of them Jews and half Palestinians. It was the first terrorist attack ever to take place in the area, and serves as a major blow to the feeling of safety workers in the area enjoyed before the murders.
The terrorist is believed to be a 23-year old Palestinian from the village of Shweika near Tulkarem who worked at a factory in the park. He succeeded in sneaking an automatic weapon – a Carlo-style sub machine gun – through security, possibly because he held a work permit. He managed to escape after committing the attack. Israeli security has launched a manhunt to find him.
As the terrorist ran out, he fired at other workers, one of whom was carrying a gun and fired back. Neither managed to hit his target.
According to witnesses, the terrorist also worked at the Alon Group and may have been personally acquainted with his victims. He was an electrician at the plant but had not appeared at work during the weeks before the attack.
President Reuven Rivlin condemned the attack. “I am shocked and saddened by this morning’s terrible terrorist attack at the Barkan industrial area. Our hearts are with the families of those who were killed, and our prayers are with those who are injured,” he said.
“This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully. “
OneFamily has reached out to the Yehezkel and Hajbi families. We are at their side through the difficult mourning period and will continue to be there through the stages of grieving that follow. We will stay at their side as long as they need us so that they never feel alone.