When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. God doesn’t give us anything
we can’t handle. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Get back
on the horse that threw you. Inside every cloud there’s a silver
These familiar sayings have given solace and strength to many who
find themselves enduring truly bleak moments in their lives at one time or
another. Indeed, oftentimes a squeeze on the shoulder or warm smile from a
stranger can work miracles for someone who is feeling down in the
But sayings like these are simple at best and insulting at worst
for parents who have experienced the worst nightmare – the death of a child. How
can they continue to be effective parents, stay a part of a community, make a
meal or even get dressed day after day? And when the death of that same child
isn’t merely a death but, instead, a brutal murder, can anyone fault the living
father and mother who might take to their beds for however long they choose?
parents of Yakov “Koby” Mandell and his best friend Yosef Ish-Ran were put to
the unfathomable test when both boys were slain by terrorists in May 2001, while
hiking in the hills near their home in pastoral Tekoa.
As the years
passed, Sherri and Seth Mandell took their sorrow and, in a myriad of ways,
endeavored to give solace and hope to others who have lost a loved one to
terrorism. They embraced a worldview that states that the Jewish response
to suffering is to live fuller and more engaged lives. And, so they established
the Koby Mandell Foundation, which carries on Koby’s name by creating and
running programs that directly address the trauma of loss and help survivors
overcome the isolation that keeps them from returning to life.
to keep Koby’s remarkable spirit alive in the world,” Seth asserted without
Soon after, Camp Koby Sleepaway Camp, a series of
10-day overnight summer camps, opened, offering a healing opportunity to
children who had lost either a parent or sibling to terror. In 2003, Sherri’s
poignant memoir was published, called Blessings of a Broken Heart
. In 2004, it
won an award from the National Jewish Book Council and was recently made into a
play. And for almost five years, Israeli-American comedian Avi Liberman has been
hosting a twice-a-year celebration called Comedy for Koby, the proceeds of which
go toward helping the families of terror victims.
The Kilometers for Koby
Young Professionals Hike, an event similar to Comedy for Koby, was created to
raise funds for Camp Koby. The hike, set to take place during Succot on October
3-4 , will see Sherri, Seth, Liberman and “Friendly Planet” tour guide Alan
Rabinowitz leading a two-day hike through the Galilee.
When asked why
they are sponsoring this event, Sherri and Seth answered, “We’ve done the hike
twice with friends and discovered that it is just a great place to really open
up and have deeper, less inhibited conversations. Naturally, we thought,
‘Wouldn’t this be a great way for like-minded people to meet each other and open
up, all in the name of fun?”
“It is very healing to be in nature and people
naturally bond. Somebody on the last hike said this would be a great opportunity
for ‘good people’ to meet each other because it’s so natural, whether talking or
not. In most of the hikes, there are 20-minute periods where no one says
anything, and it feels just like meditation,” they continued.
naturally bond and separate. There’s a natural intimacy that develops in
such an informal setting. Spontaneity makes for a great experience.”
addition to the hike, participants will be able to mingle during a barbecue
complete with locally made wines and award-winning beers, direct from the nearby
vineyards and microbrewery. Yehuda Katz from the celebrated band Reva L’Sheva
will lead songs and music during a kumzitz into the late hours of the night and
“Israel is so beautiful and this is a great way for good
people to enjoy themselves, reappreciate the land of Israel, and learn about it
with their feet and bodies.”
Both days of hiking will concentrate of
different parts of the Galilee and every leg of the trek guarantees magnificent
terrain and views. The second day will feature – after the morning hike – an
al-fresco “Feast in the Forest.” This will be the last “group meal” before
enjoying the final hike.
According to the committee members and tour
guide Rabinowitz, the itinerary is suited to all fitness levels.
trying to shy away from the notion of matchmaking through the foundation’s
programs, Sherri brought home the fact that doing events like the Kilometers for
Koby hike are not just to raise money for victims of terror, but also to honor
the memory of those who were killed in the attacks.
Towards the end of
the interview, she said, “We don’t want to push the ‘potential shidduch’ angle
of the hike but I’d have to be honest and say that it does occasionally cross my
mind; after all, I’m a mother. And I can’t help but thinking that even though
Koby never got married, wouldn’t it be incredible for shidduchim to come out of
this? That babies might be born who could, perhaps, be named after my son? Or
not named after him but that somehow, because of this hike, people will remember
a beautiful boy who loved the land and loved his family and whose memory will be
a blessing that continues year after year.” To learn more the Koby Mandell
Foundation and register for events like the Kilometers for Koby hike, go to the website at www.kobymandell.org.