“I am often beset by a powerful longing which I cannot suppress, so that suddenly I feel like screaming, but I know there’s no point because who will understand me. And so I decide to be silent.”
These were the words of Aviya Turgerman, Tuesday night at the OneFamily Remembrance Day ceremony in Jerusalem about his brother Evyatar, who was killed in combat during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in July 2014. He was 20 years old.
The OneFamily organization is dedicated to providing year-round support services for families who lost loved ones to Israel’s wars or to terrorist attacks. It also offer support to victims of terrorism and violence.
On Tuesday night, after the memorial siren had sounded, seven people whose lives have been irreversibly impacted by the loss of someone in their family took to the podium to describe how their lives have changed.
The ceremony was wrought with emotion. Speakers recounted memories of some victims murdered in the recent spate of terrorism, with speakers and members of the audience often in tears.
Aviya described the loneliness he feels over the loss of his brother, a longing which he says is not passing, but getting stronger with time.
“Just three months before you fell, we danced together at my wedding. Time has passed since you fell in battle and I have a son, Eitam, who is 10 months old. It saddens me so much that you don’t know him,” he said.
He said the transition between Remembrance Day and Independence Day was difficult.
“I could not just wash my face, wipe away the tears and move on. My memorial day for Evyatar is not over! For us, Remembrance Day is our every day.”
Aviya thanked OneFamily, however, for providing him with a space within which to share his story and for bringing him together with others who understand his pain.
“Here we feel less alone and the feelings of loneliness disappear for a while.”
Adelle Bennett, whose husband, Aharon, was murdered in one of the first terrorist attacks of the current wave of Palestinian violence in October last year, was another of the speakers.
She talked about the difficulty of the last seven months.
She has been recovering from serious stab wounds she received during the attack, and was thus unable to breastfeed her baby daughter or take care of her son. She misses her husband.
“Everyday, I wake up and want to crawl back in bed and break down,” she said. “I don’t want to get up but then I ask myself what is the purpose of today? I feel very lonely.”
She talked of her fondest memories of Aharon, of how he came home every day to have lunch and how they shared this time together.
“Suddenly, every lunchtime is now so lonely and I have no one to wait for."
“I feel that I am living between life and death; between the question of why this happened and how I can continue to live. It feels so hard and I have little strength to get up and live.”
Bennett talked about how her two-year-old son, Natan, is continually looking for references to his father, holding up a toy and asking if his dad had bought it for him, or asking if his father is part of a story his mother is reading to him.
Moshe “Moshiko” Davino, 20, was killed during Operation Protective Edge.
His mother, Ruhama, described the birthday message she had received from him just before he went into Gaza.
It read: “Thank you for always being there for us. Stay just the way you are – you’re the best mother in the world. I wish that every child could have a mother like you, who worries and helps and does everything on her own. The main thing – continue smiling.”
Ruhama described how three weeks before he was killed he tried to reassure her he would be okay. “I won’t talk a lot about the huge hole and the longing. Everyone here knows it,” she said.
“His spirit is alive and well. Without this feeling, I don’t know whether it is possible to get up in the morning, to breathe, to eat, to walk...Moshiko asked me to continue onward, to smile, to love, and to watch over all the children. And every morning, every evening, I stand and look at the blessing that sits in a large frame in my home, and I continue onward... as he wanted.”
She also had warm words of praise for OneFamily: “Thank you to each and every one of you for your warmth, your giving and love. Thanks to you, we are continuing onward.”
Chantal Belzberg, CEO and founder of OneFamily, remarked: “It’s a very personal ceremony, where people talk about what they’re going through, It’s raw emotion, as people open up their hearts and share everything inside of them."
“We are in touch with these families all year, working with them, holding their hands. We are there for them.”