chabad hanukkah 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy Chabad)
Their loved ones were murdered by terrorists at the Megiddo Junction, in Hadera, Netanya and Beersheba, they were blown up by suicide bombers in the Park Hotel, in CafÃ© Hillel and in Sbarro, they were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip or on the Lebanese border.
But these families' common denominator is not just loss. Wednesday evening hundreds of relatives of terror victims across the nation proved that a little bit of light can banish a lot of darkness.
"Islamic terrorists hope to bring darkness into the world," said Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project. "We are here to prove that Jews want to bring light."
Kidnapped soldier Eldad Regev's father and brother was to light the hanukkia at the central event to be held in Kiryat Motzkin, near Haifa.
Other terror victims' families were set to light a hanukkia in many of the same cities where the terrorist attacks took place, including Hadera, Beersheba, Netanya, Jerusalem and Afula.
"Going back to the scene of the terrorist attack and performing a mitzva there conveys a powerful message," said Kutner. "We are making a statement that the Torah and its commandments are what kept the Jewish people together through nearly two millennia of exile. And that is what will keep us together in the future."
The Chabad Terror Victims Project, funded by the Chabad Youth Organization headed by Rabbi Yosef Aharonov, gives aid - both spiritual and economic - to 2,500 families. A Chabad rabbi visits every terrorist victim's family immediately after the tragedy.
"The first thing we do is try to find out what the family needs," Kutner said. "We present ourselves to the family as Chabad emissaries and explain that we are there to help.
"Obviously, families that have plenty of emotional support, such as the Zoldan family from Kedumim [whose son was killed by terrorists in a drive-by shooting last week in Samaria] don't need us right away.
"But what often happens is that after a few weeks or months people go back to their daily routine and the family of the terrorist victim is left on its own. That's when we get involved."
Nava Lacham, whose son Eli was killed in March 2003 when a suicide bomber blew up the bus he was riding on to visit his grandfather, said Chabad turned her family's life around.
"Rabbi Shlomo Haim Lison lifted us up from the ground and brought light into our lives," she said. "He gave us a reason to continue to live."
After the terrorist attack, Nava, who lives in the secular Haifa suburb of West Carmel, slowly became interested in Judaism. She single-handedly established the neighborhood's first synagogue, which she called Heichal Eliyahu after her son.
"I come from a very secular background," Nava said. "I was active in Shinui [a pro-secular political party] and did not want to have anything to do with religion. At first, when Rabbi Lison first started coming to our house right after Eli was killed, we practically ignored him.
"Eventually we started to verbally attack him. But he always answered our questions, even the derisive ones, with patience."
Six months ago, Nava, 47, gave birth to a healthy baby boy who she named Liad Haim (literally eternal life).
"Even the doctors were skeptical about my chances of having a baby," Nava said. "But He helps from above."
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