Coping with pain through action

An initiative of Ofir and Bat Galim Sha'ar in memory of their son collects more than 700 ideas for connecting Israel Jews and Diaspora.

Nitzan Kedar,

Bat Galim and Ofir Sha'ar
Bat Galim and Ofir Sha'ar
Michal Giladi

A new initiative to strengthen the connection between Israel and Diaspora Jewry of the Sunshine Foundation, founded by Ofir and Bat Galim Sha'ar, has already reached its zenith. Their son Gil-Ad was kidnapped and murdered four-and-a-half years ago in an attack that shook the country.

The project was called the GCC - Global Connection Competition, and was joined by about 40 organizations operating in the area of ​​activity between Israel and the Jews around the world, to raise ideas for strengthening the inter-Jewish connection.

Bat Galim told Arutz Sheva that "this project, like much of our activity, aims to strengthen our optimism in Israeli society and around the world, and to do so by means of connections and strengthening the relationship. We have been engaged in this for five years and now there is a step up in the scope and globality that we've put into this.

"What we did was to announce the competition we called the GCC, where we called upon the entire Jewish world to offer us suggestions to strengthen the connection," adds her husband, Ofir Sha'ar.

"Our connection with the Jews of the Diaspora is not natural enough, because as native Israelis, we did not know the Diaspora in depth, and we received a great embrace that has continued to this day from the Jews of the Diaspora since the murder of the youths. We have been exposed to many organizations working in the field, to the blessed work they do, and to the importance of the relationship that isn't in the order of priorities in the country or in the national discourse."

He says the response was much higher than expected. "Over the course of this competition, amazing things happened in the social networks and in the media, and to our surprise, we received over 700 offers from 22 countries around the world - of course from Israel, the US, and Europe, but also from places such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Nigeria. All these proposals were passed to a very respectable advisory committee of people in the Jewish world who examined the various proposals and in fact, in the final stage, we convened for three proposals that are to be chosen."

Next week, the couple will visit the grave of their son, Gilad, and will also allow the public to participate in an internet vote on a special site to choose the winning project for connecting Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

"We are actually coming to the final stages of this competition - and we want the public to choose in an open vote from the three projects between June 16 and 20. At the same time there will be a three-judge decision at the June 23 event and then we will announce the winning idea. It is important for us to give exposure to all three wonderful ideas," says Bat Galim.

She describes the three projects that reached the finish line. "The first project is called a double birthday, and its idea is to connect people on the basis of a common date of birth, to try to connect on my birthday to someone on the other side of the globe and to call on him to wish him congratulations.

"Another project talks about the creation of a 'world Jewish path', taking the globe and sketching a world-wide Jewish path that will pass through special sites and special people - a bit borrowed from the idea of ​​the Israel National Trail. On this trail are supposed to be 'pathway guardian angels' - people who will open their hearts and doors to host people who come for a walk. It's a different kind of connection that can be wonderful and meaningful.

"The third idea is to create a status for Jews who are not citizens of the state. There are many Jews who love the country, are connected to it and feel mentally motivated, and because they do not live here, they are not citizens. The idea refers to granting a certificate, a card, or a social and moral status (and not in a legal or religious context) that will strengthen the relationship and contain more people and possibilities. This is something that can provide a solution for many Jews who do not know where to guide the relationship. These are three wonderful ideas, each going in a completely different direction and we will be happy with whatever's chosen," adds Bat Galim.

Ofir Sha'ar notes that the goal is not only to choose an enterprise but to bring about its implementation. "Our intention after the choice is to realize the idea, and we hope to make the chosen idea a reality."

Two years ago, Bat Galim published a book titled "What a Day Brings" telling what she experienced during the kidnapping, the moments of horror, the worst news, and life after her son's murder. The book is currently being translated as part of a desire to connect with Diaspora Jewry and will shortly be offered for sale on the Amazon network.

Do all the blessed projects in memory of Gilad increase his memory? Bat Galim is sure that the answer is yes. "Not for nothing do we say the verse: 'For as I speak more of him, do I remember him more'. When you take the pain and direct it to action, it is a place that enables us to make meaningful changes from this loss.

"It's not simple, pain is pain, and longing is longing, it might change faces, but it's deep inside, and it's very hard. I think that in the end you can choose how to deal with a reality that is imposed on you and we choose this direction of action. And now we are approaching the memorial, and this is accompanied by a lot of sorrow and pain."

Ofir Sha'ar concludes, "This is a personal and family struggle, and the key word is channeling, where the pain is transcended. At the end of the day, we remember at any given time why we do what we do, but this action takes on a meaning of looking ahead and not backwards, and enables us to cope optimally with the loss that exists and is present."




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