OneFamily, Israel’s leading organization supporting victims of terror and their families, brought together over 700 students and staff on Israel summer programs from NCSY, Sulam, and Machach (Bnei Akiva’s Summer Camp in Israel), to support and connect with Israel’s victims of terror. Meeting at Neot Kdumim, each bus of participants, wearing red OneFamily t-shirts, was joined by victims of terror, wearing white, who walked the three kilometers together to the Neot Kdumim Amphitheater.
“This event is really about connecting young Jews from the Diaspora with Israelis who have lost loved ones for no other reason than their determination to live as Jews in the homeland of their forefathers,” said OneFamily Chairman Marc Belzberg. “Walking together in such a wonderful atmosphere allows the groups to engage with one another and feel that they are part of one people, that they are brothers. Now, more than ever, when the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry is being challenged, it is incredibly important to encourage and inspire greater communication and connection – greater unity – between the two groups.”
Belzberg welcomed MK Idit Silman (United Right) to the stage who shared her commitment to supporting victims of terror saying, “I am overwhelmed and so excited to be here tonight. We in the Knesset will do what we can to support OneFamily - I welcome and bless all of you and your goodwill.”
The event culminated with a moving ceremony where Racheli Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali Fraenkel hy”d, urged the teenagers to remember the event and how meaningful it was to “walk on the soil of your homeland as one family – because we really are OneFamily.”
The participants in the walk also engaged in a learning experience through iKonnect.co.il’s digital contest on Israel’s history and culture. The challenges that were part of the platform encouraged the youth to work together and explore their common backgrounds.
“To be part of OneFamily’s incredible work is a distinct privilege and pleasure,” said Rabbi Benji Levi of Mosaic who chaired the evening. “I found that being in the presence of such heroic families that experience terror truly moving and it reinforced the importance of your holy work.”
“This was our first encounter with victims of terror,” said Chloe, who was joined by her friend Atara, both teens from New Jersey. “I’m glad we came here and I want to understand more about what OneFamily does,” Atara continued.
The ceremony also included an emotional presentation by Gabriella and Eliana Steinberg, twin sisters who were on MachHach and Michlelelt respectively and who had been ‘twinned’ with Emuna and Tal Arbel (2 of 3 triplets) who lost their father Roi in 2004 in a terror attack near his home of Talmon.
The teenagers sang along and swayed to the music of the OneFamily Bereaved Fathers choir singing ‘Hallelujah’ which was followed by a special prayer dedicated to the safety of Israel’s soldiers. Michal Belzberg spoke about the origins of the organization 18 years ago on her Bat Mitzvah when she chose to ask friends and relatives to donate their gifts to the victims of the bloody Sbarro terror attack.
As the evening came to a close, the teenagers boarded their buses. Their visit to the Jewish homeland will continue for another few weeks, but the emotions they felt and the terror victims they met at the ‘OneWalk with OneFamily’ will accompany them for the rest of their lives.