Camp for kids who lost loved ones to terror celebrates 11 years

Koby Mandell foundation’s Camp Koby v’Yosef founded by parents who lost their son to a terror attack in 2001.

August 8, 2013 17:36
3 minute read.
Children at Camp Koby v’Yosef

Camp Koby 370. (photo credit: Seth Mandell)

The Koby Mandell Foundation’s Camp Koby v’Yosef, a summer program for Israeli children who have lost a parent or sibling in terrorist attacks, marked its 11th year of activity this summer.

The foundation was established by Seth and Sherri Mandell, who immigrated to Israel from America in 1996.

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In 2001, the Mandell’s 13- year-old son Koby Mandell and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by Arab terrorists while hiking with a friend near a cave.

Just a year later, in the height of the second intifada, Mandell’s parents started the summer sleep-away camp, one of the foundation’s many therapeutic programs designed to provide “individuals and families with the tools to translate the pain and suffering of tragedy into positive personal growth, deeper interpersonal relationships, and active community leadership.”

“The basic premise of the camp, and of what we do during the year, is that as much as the government is helpful to victims monetarily, there needs to be a safe place that can provide those kids who have lost loved ones with spiritual tools and strength to function as normally as possible in the course of their lives,” director of the foundation Roy Angstreich told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“To this day we still have kids who, at home, won’t talk about what happened, but within the environment of the camp, they feel comfortable speaking about it,” he added.

“It gives them a place where people are not judging them or treating them differently.”

Camp Koby v’Yosef hosts children of all ages for eightday- sessions – fully subsidized by donations – during which they are exposed to animal, holistic, extreme sports, art, drama and dance therapies.

This year the University of Haifa was involved in the art therapy program.

They participate in tours and hikes all over Israel, games and contests and visits to organizations such as Yad Sarah, Beit Issie Shapiro, Magen David Adom and the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization.

Angstreich explained that the purpose of the therapy courses is to “help these kids bring out and verbalize their feeling as well as give them a sense of unity when they hear other kids express the same thoughts they have. It helps them also deal with their parents, who, in many cases can’t talk about the tragedy.”

The camp is divided into three levels adapted for separate age groups and operates a division for religious children.

According to Angstreich, some 95 percent of the kids who come to the camp, return year after year. Some of them come back as counselors or soldiers wishing to volunteer.

Angstreich told the Post that the personal feelings running such a camp brings him is “hard to describe.”

“During course of the year I do fund-raising and administrative types of things,” he said, “but on the first day of camp, you look around the dining room, you look at hundreds of kid and you know why they are there. It puts everything in perspective.”

Eleven years ago, Angstreich said he hadn’t envisioned that the need for such activities would still be there down the road.

“I realize, unfortunately that there will always be a need, even for kids who were not even born when the terror event took place and someone from their family died, they still suffer from it because of the effect it has on their parents or siblings,” he said.

The foundation is holding a “Comedy for Koby” benefit on Wednesday evening, August 14 in Jerusalem.

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