Suspected terror attack.
(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM JERUSALEM)
We had been looking forward to a calm and quiet summer, the perfect backdrop for relaxation and healing for Israel’s victims of terrorism. We had planned our Youth Division Therapeutic Camp, Bereaved Parents Retreats, and getaways for orphans and wounded young adults. We prepared workshops, therapy sessions and home visits in locations across the country. Our summer was packed, and we were excited to make real progress.
However, the peaceful summer took a very quick and pronounced turn for the worse. The kidnap and murder of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, and the subsequent war in Gaza, turned our skies gray and dashed our plans for a summer of healing. Every Israeli was focused on surviving.
Thrust into a whirlwind of urgent need, OneFamily evacuated families in the south to therapeutic retreats outside of rocket range.
Hospital visits started our days, shiva visits filled our nights, and every spare moment was used to make phone calls and house calls to offer our help wherever it was needed.
In a herculean effort, our Youth Division counselors reorganized to meet their groups in smaller activities throughout the country, larger events were held in bomb shelters, and already-planned retreats, workshops and therapeutic support events were expanded to transition and welcome newly bereaved families and wounded soldiers.
As foreboding sirens continued to sound throughout the country, we canceled our “best laid plans” and did whatever was necessary to ease the pain of those most in need throughout the tense and turbulent summer months. From experience, we knew that this new challenge was just another pin on the personal map of survival and victimhood of so many families still suffering from past wars and terrorist attacks.
The war ended with a blast of hot air that thawed a cold and unfamiliar July and August, and ushered in an unusually lively September, replete with parties, beach days and wine festivals. So much time had been lost, and every individual and family rushed to enjoy the entirety of summer in just a few short days.
But for us at OneFamily, the full ramifications of Operation Protective Edge only came into focus as the IDF tanks made their way out of Gaza and the country returned to the daily grind. Although the war had ended, our work intensified.
Since the end of the summer, we have spent countless hours with bereaved families, wounded soldiers, and families slowly rebuilding in the south. Just last week, I watched the Shaer girls participate in their first Youth Division activity at the therapeutic Succot Camp. I didn’t notice the turning of the seasons, as we are still very much in this war zone of recovery.
The battle rages on.
I often find myself digging deep to explain the effects of war and loss on families. It is a unique challenge, as the reality of the continued battle to recover from terrorism and war is a difficult concept to grasp, and one that people prefer to avoid.
As we strive to maintain our status as a “healthy society,” we do our best to progress beyond our national crises and focus on living and celebrating life. To achieve this, many shun all negative thoughts and feelings as a way of inviting positivity into their lives.
But the truth is unavoidable and clear: there is no “post war” period for victims of terrorism, for wounded soldiers or for bereaved families, because their journey of survival is only beginning, and will continue throughout their lives. It is impossible to explain the pain, anguish, trauma and grief that seep into the crevices of their personal loss and wreak havoc on the core foundation of the normalcy of their lives.
As a survivor of terrorism myself, news headlines about fresh terrorist attacks remind me how the lightest of wounds can hurt your soul, and that a headline is only the beginning of a long and painful journey.
Every loss is different, and every person copes in his or her own way. I feel that resilience is a God-given gift – some have enough to cope alone, while others cannot stretch it thin enough to regain their footing. Individuals and families who are left wounded or grieving from acts of terrorism will always grapple with the emotional trauma that stems from the randomness of the incident that changed their lives and the lives of the people they love.
Similarly, the ripple effects from the wars waged to establish and protect our young country continuously permeate the lives of bereaved and wounded families, as they battle internal and external forces to regain the normalcy that was stolen from them.
It is for this reason that we can never define any one period as “post war.”
Just as we set aside time and resources to assist our soldiers and civilians in rocket range during Operation Protective Edge, we must go to the same lengths to help those who need it to rebuild their lives. Victims of terrorism and war, and their families, need us now and for the foreseeable future.
As Jews, they are members of our intimate circles, and we cannot allow them to traverse this painful emotional terrain alone. As we are all one family, the battle is still raging for all of us.The author is the director of communications and marketing at OneFamily (www.onefamilytogether.org), Israel’s leading national organization focused on rebuilding, rehabilitating and reintegrating Israel’s wounded and bereaved victims of terrorism and war.