For the 16th year, OneFamily, Israel’s leading organization supporting victims of terror and their families brought together more than 300 hundred youth to the Hermon Field School in Kibbutz Snir, for a week-long camp. Campers, ranging from age 8 to 18 experienced an array of activities that were highlighted by spending Shabbat together and a gala concert on the final night.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed, joined the campers on Shabbat to hear their stories, share with them inspirational words and, primarily, to celebrate the Shabbat experience with them.
“When I received the invitation to join you, I immediately said yes,” said Rabbi Eliyahu. “Wherever I go, people come and ask me to bless them. But here, amongst you, I want you to bless me. Despite the pain you’ve suffered, your willpower to continue on with complete faith in G-d – it means that you have the greatest power to bless others.”
The summer camp ended with a gala concert at the Tel Hai courtyard on Monday night featuring Hatikva 6, one of Israel’s top Reggae bands who performed for the camp free of charge. Their music brought together the entire camp, including some 80 graduates who are currently in the army or doing national service and returned to take part in the festivities with their younger peers. The emotional evening included children braving the stage to tell their story, their yearnings for their loved ones and how being with others like them has helped them move forward and pick up the pieces.
“For me, OneFamily is a telephone call on Friday from my counselor, it is something I look forward to so I can talk about how I am, and it's being in touch beyond the camps, weekend meetings and get-togethers,” said Rachel Zoldan Dvir whose father, Ido, was murdered in a drive-by shooting attack near Kedumim in November 2007.
For Raz Amrani, OneFamily is about the people, the counselors and the friends. “The connection I made here has remained throughout the years and has provided me with true friends…a special connection with people and open dialogue.” Raz’s mother Sarit was killed in a shooting attack at the entrance to Tekoa in September 2001 and his father was seriously injured.
The camp provides a respite from home life, an array of fun activities combined with therapeutic workshops and seminars.
“This camp is a place I can have fun with others like me without feeling alone or different. One of the main things that helps me to overcome, is being able to talk to others about what I am going through and all the things I feel,” said Hili (Ben-Dor) Levy whose sister, Rachel, was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem in March 2002 and lost her father, Amos, last year in a car accident.
Campers come from all backgrounds and locations around Israel. Some have lost someone as recently as a few months ago, while others have been a part of OneFamily for more than a decade. Psychologists and social workers are among the professionals at the camp, providing support for each and every camper.
“What is truly remarkable is the culture of support for the newer or younger campers who are still just learning to live with the grief,” said Chantal Belzberg, Executive Director of OneFamily. “The staff and professionals are there, of course, to play a key role in the process but the ‘big brother/big sister’ aspect is what really sets this experience apart for many of the participants.”
“No one at camp views my story strangely, so I can make space to cope with loss. Here, I dare to reveal my feelings and am comfortable because of the understanding and the ease that exists here, that doesn’t exist elsewhere,” said Shahar Moshe whose parents, Sharon and Yaniv Ben Shalom, were killed in a shooting attack in August 2001. Her mother threw herself on top of Shahar and her sister to prevent them from being hurt.