More than 100 brave women and 177 children participated in a special Shabbaton for survivors of Arab villages rescued by Yad L’Achim.
The Shabbaton, held at Yeshivat Tzviya in Yad Binyamin, was held this past Shabbat (Sabbath) to help the women prepare for the holidays of Tishrei and to give them a chance to bond with other survivors.
The women, who had been picked up by chartered buses sent to towns all across Israel, were warmly greeted by a large contingent of Yad L’Achim staffers and volunteers, who were on hand to give personal attention.
After taking a bit of time to settle in their rooms, the women gathered in the main hall for inspiring programs, while the children were divided into groups of four, according to age, and provided with age-appropriate activities surrounding the holidays.
The opening program was an hour-long concert by Limor ben Simon, who sang inspirational, uplifting songs and did the mitzvah (commandment) of hafrashas challah (separating a portion of bread for the priest) with the women, who took advantage of the special moment to pray and ask for success in opening a new page in their lives at the start of a new year.
During Shabbat, they heard lecturers from Rabbanit Tal Sabag, who shared her story of being raised by deaf parents and of her return to Torah Judaism. The survivors identified with her upbeat message that we need to look ahead and advance in our lives despite the difficulties, and with the importance of seeing the good and thanking G-d not just for what we have, but for what we don’t have.
Rabbanit Orit Saloman spoke at length about the month of Elul, and of the desire to become closer to G-d and to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. She put a special emphasis on G-d’s love for us.
Mrs. Suri Kostlitz of Yad L’Achim, who organized the Shabbat, was pleased with the way it turned out.
“It was a powerful, one-of-a-kind experience for these brave women,” she said. “They had the opportunity to get to know women with life stories similar to theirs. They could share their reservations with their new friends and with the rabbaniyot. Most importantly, they had time to rest, to enjoy and to charge their batteries at the start of a new year. The feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive.”
Rabbi Chaim Kahan and Rabbi Yoav Robinson, who were also involved in organizing the Shabbat and running activities for the children, also received enthusiastic responses to the event.
The impact of the Shabbaton could be seen immediately. A “hatafat dam brit” (non-surgical circumcision) ceremony was held for a child born born in an Arab village who’d been given a Muslim circumcision by his Arab father. Other women took upon themselves other commitments. What they all had in common was a desire to strengthen of their fear of Heaven and draw closer to their Father in Heaven.
“The encouragement we are receiving these days from the broader public has strengthened us,” said one Yad L’Achim official. “We again remind everyone that on erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the Jewish New Year) and erev Yom Kippur (the eve of the Day of Atonement) we will be organizing special tefillot (prayers) for all of our partners in saving women and children at Me’arat Hamachpelah (the Cave of the Patriarchs). Those interested in being included in tefillot at the graves of our forefathers and in sending their names and the names of their loved ones for tefillah for a good year are invited to call the hotline.”