A respite from longing

The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization was established in 1991 with the aim of protecting and promoting the rights of IDF widows and orphans.

December 6, 2015 03:38
3 minute read.
IDF WIDOWS organization chairwoman Nava Shoham and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot

IDF WIDOWS organization chairwoman Nava Shoham and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot are pictured at an annual retreat for the bereaved women and their offspring. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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I think everyone in Israel owes something to the bereaved families because their pain is endless, Nava Shoham, chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization (IDFWO) told The Jerusalem Post.

As part of this everlasting responsibility, this past week the IDFWO invited some 600 widows to participate in an annual retreat to northern Israel.

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The IDFWO was established in 1991 with the aim of protecting and promoting the rights of IDF widows and orphans.

“In addition we organize social activities – which our organization does for both the children and the widows - because we understand that when they are together they can share the loneliness, the pain, the unending longing,” she said.

This year the annual retreat took place at Pastoral Hotel in Kfar Blum and at Kibbutz HaGoshrim.

“Each time we pick another site in Israel to have this retreat that takes place once a year because there are a lot of widows that do not travel at all and it is important for them to see Israel its highlights,” she said in a recent interview.

As part of the retreat, the women attend shows and lectures, and yoga, and Pilates classes. They go on numerous outings as well.

“They went to Rosh Pina, they went to the Reut museum, we were in Katzrin – we go on a lot of nature hikes and do a lot of activities for relaxation,” Shoham said.

“They are really enjoying and really laughing and talking together and every now and then you see a tear shed over a shared story and it’s really nice to see women comforting one another.”

Shoham, who herself is no stranger to loss, said that this sense of shared camaraderie is one of the main highlights of the retreat.

“I say this from personal experience. I lost my husband in the first Lebanon war when I was only 29 years old,” she said.

“My life basically ended then and my life shattered into a million pieces and I needed a lot of strength to pick up these pieces and it took many, many years until I found the strength to move on.”

“And now because I am in a strong place I can volunteer – because I know how much they need a shoulder and the strength to handle their home and take care of their children,” she said.

On the last evening of the retreat, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and other defense establishment representatives came to “hug” the widows and assure them they are not alone.

“We receive a budget from the Minister of the Defense and we charge the widows a membership fee but this budget is not enough for us,” Shoham said. “We would appreciate if Jewish communities in Israel and all over the world can continue to implement welfare activities for bereaved families.”

To date the organization has helped over 5,000 IDF widows as well as over 3,000 offspring who have lost a parent.

Next week, the organization will host such children for a Hanukka OT ZMA camp in the Negev at Kibbutz Regivim.

“We are there for all the milestones of these young children, and throughout their lives. We are there when they go to first grade, we are there when they celebrate their Bar Mitzva, and we are there when they enlist in the IDF – many of them go to combat units like their fathers,” she said.

“We are there with them when they are released from the army and go to study and we provide scholarships and provide a present on their wedding day,” Shoham added.

“We are a second home for widows and orphans and all this thanks to the wonderful donors, many from North America, who support those that have died serving their country.”

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