In honor of Koby Mandell

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran’s brutal deaths, the 62nd and 63rd casualties of the second intifada.

Mandell Family 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of the Mandell family)
Mandell Family 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Mandell family)
Thursday is Koby’s yahrtzeit, the 10th anniversary of his brutal murder near our home in Tekoa.
On the 15th of Iyar, May 8, 2001, he and his friend Yosef Ishran, two eighth-grade boys exploring the pristine canyon that abuts our small community, were stoned to death by Arab terrorists. They were the 62nd and 63rd casualties of the intifada. There have been more than 1,300.
When we sat at the shiva, I remember people saying things like: “This will make the asimon drop. People in the US will finally understand what we’re up against here.”
For some people it did. There are people who have told me that they made aliya as a reaction to what happened to Koby. Stand With Us, a pro-Israel campus organization, started when the founders heard about Koby and Yosef’s murder and decided they had to do something to help Israel.
Most moving of all, at least two families, one I didn’t know, named their sons after Koby.
And many people tell us: “I remember where I was when I heard the news. I still think about it.”
SINCE KOBY’S murder, my wife Sherri and I have been transported to a different level of influence. Of course, Sherri was a writer and I was a rabbi and Jewish educator before, but the attention and recognition we received after the murder changed everything.
Sherri has been given four or five awards for her writing. We’ve received humanitarian awards for the work of The Koby Mandell Foundation, we’ve appeared on national TV in Israel, the US, Europe and the Far East, spoken to literally thousands of people from second-graders in Philadelphia to US senators and ministers in Israel, and had the pleasure of hanging out with the comics who come to Israel to perform in Comedy for Koby.
The programs of The Koby Mandell Foundation have helped thousands of bereaved children and mothers to feel better about themselves and about their lives. There is no cure for losing a beloved family member to terror or tragedy, the hole in the heart stays there forever, but there are steps toward healing, and the fun, creative therapy and social support participants receive from our programs encourage bereaved families to live largely.
Our next task is to take our healing initiatives to new levels: to people bereaved by tragedies other than terror and to those outside of Israel who have lost family members in tragic circumstances. This July we are planning a new initiative for Englishspeaking bereaved parents from here and from North America. The Israel Healing Tour is based on the experience The Koby Mandell Foundation has gained from its work with bereaved families, couples and mothers.
It is scheduled to offer a combination of creative arts therapies, supportive group discussions and a fun and meaningful touring of Israel. We are proud that Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, PhD – executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union, one of America’s most respected rabbis and a veteran psychologist – is helping us formulate the programming and will be leading daily group discussions, lecturing and serving as our spiritual guide for the tour.
HAD KOBY lived, he’d be 23 years old now. He would have had friends that he laughed and cried with, and in time a profession and a family. He would have contributed to society and touched in an ordinary way thousands of people’s lives. But Koby’s power was stolen from the world. All the good that he would have done. All the laughter he would have made. All the love he would have created.
In some small way, our work had been to replace that lost potential; to keep our son’s power working in the world.
May the merit for the work of the Koby Mandell Foundation – the laughter of the children of Camp Koby, the emotional breakthroughs made possible by healing support of bereaved mothers, the personal growth of American high school kids serving as Camp Koby counselors – go to Koby’s soul so that it will continue to shine brighter and light up the darkness left by his absence.
The writer is the co-founder and director of the Koby Mandell Foundation, which helps families of victims of terror.