As the conflict in Ukraine extends beyond a year and a half, 'Gan Israel' summer camps have emerged as a sanctuary for the war-touched youth, offering them psychological support.
Established in 35 tranquil regions of Ukraine, these camps are a collaborative endeavor by Chabad's rescue center, The Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JNRU), Mosaic United, and the Diaspora Affairs and the Fight against Antisemitism ministry.
The principal aim of these camps is to bolster the mental resilience of children traumatized by the war. They benefit from the guidance of psychologists, therapists, and educational professionals who facilitate activities from discussion groups to art therapy sessions, helping children process and articulate their experiences.
While therapeutic healing remains central, the camps also strive to provide a semblance of typical summer fun. Children, even amidst the heightened security, engage in excursions that momentarily distance them from the war's shadow.
One camp affected by missiles in Odessa
One camp, in particular, affiliated with the 'Mishpacha' children's home in Odessa and led by Chabad emissaries Rabbi Avraham Wolf and his wife, Chaya, had its plans upended by missile attacks on Odessa. This led to a swift relocation to Haditch, a city cherished in Chabad Hassidism.
Reflecting on the urgent relocation, Rabbi Wolf said, "The ten-hour journey to safety underscores our commitment to offering these children and the larger community a respite from the war's relentless strain."
As Ukraine grapples with the relentless conflict, endeavors like the 'Gan Israel' camps highlight the importance of community support, especially for the youngest affected by the war.
"The ten-hour journey to safety underscores our commitment to offering these children and the larger community a respite from the war's relentless strain."Rabbi Wolf
"It's impossible to fathom the relief this summer camp brings," shared thirteen-year-old Jacob with the Jerusalem Post, adding, "After an interminable cycle of terror, we finally find relaxation for both body and soul."
One of the Chabad representatives in Kyiv stressed the camps' significance, saying, "This isn't just a vacation - it's a lifeline for our sanity. This effort is among the myriad of actions we've taken to uphold and nurture the Jewish communities since the war's inception."