Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Danny Danon honored the Koby Mandell Foundation in a special Knesset committee meeting Wednesday.
Danon spoke at a special meeting of the Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, held to highlight the need for more government cooperation to support terror victims.
Founded in 2001 following the murder of 13-year-old Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran, the foundation has helped thousands of families deal with the tragedy of losing a loved one to terror or tragedy.
"After our son was murdered, we thought that Israel would be very helpful since we have had so much tragedy here,” said Sherri Mandell, Koby's mother and founder of the foundation with her husband, Rabbi Seth Mandell.
"We had so much help at the beginning – but the kids needed more. There are so many children in our programs who tell us that their teachers say the wrong things, and don't know how to help them. With loss, if you haven't experienced it, you can't truly understand it, and you feel divided from other people... We need the help from the government to make it better for the children.”
Among the foundation's projects is an all-expenses-paid 10-day sleepover camp for more than 400 children who have lost loved ones.
Otherp rograms include therapeutic healing retreats and activities for bereaved mothers.
"During the 2002 Second Intifada, when I was eight years old, my father was killed in a shooting attack,” noted Chana Gurov at the meeting. “When you experience such a terrible thing as a child, it puts a divider between you and the rest of the world – even your friends.
"One of the amazing things about Camp Koby is that you are together with other kids who have similar stories. It doesn't only give us a safe place to be together, but it also gives us a chance to grow outside of camp.”
In addition to Israeli children attending the camp, teens from around North America participate as counselors.
"I wasn't looking for a regular summer in Israel; I was looking to give back,” said 15-year-old Miriam Friedman from Woodmere, New York. “These amazing campers taught me that even if something terrible happens, it is still possible to move on and be happy. I became so connected with them – it changed me as a person.”