Some 450 bereaved parents and siblings gathered at the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv on Sunday for a day of relaxation and enjoyment organized by the Or Lamishpachot Association.
The nonprofit association, which acts as a family bereavement support group, arranged the day for parents whose sons or daughters fell while serving in the IDF, either during military operations or in terrorist attacks.
The group, led by Lt.-Col. (ret.) Irit Oren Gunders, aims to help bereaved families escape their loneliness and depression following the loss of their child. Attendees received psychology sessions with Prof. Yoram Yovel and were treated to spa treatments, reflexology sessions, wine tastings, group dances and more.
The day also included panel discussions and speeches by parents, siblings and Prof. Uriel Reichman, president and founder of the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, who lost his brother Gad in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War.
Recounting the story of how he found out about his brother’s death, Reichman said when his parents were told that one of their sons had fallen in battle, his mother asked: “‘Which one?’ We were three brothers who had gone to battle.”
While Reichman told the crowd he was “embarrassed” to share his personal story to a crowd with similar stories, “we have a shared pain... There’s always the memory and what the memories drive you to accomplish.”
Renana Teharlev, the sister of Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, who was killed in a car-ramming attack at Ofra junction in the West Bank in 2017, also spoke at the event. Her father embraces his grief every day instead of trying to ignore it, she said.
“I know that every day you walk into Elhai’s room, you take a breath and start your day,” Teharlev said, addressing her father, who was in the crowd. “Grief, pain and hardships are an integral part of your life. And instead of removing it, resisting it, being angry with it, trying to confront it and to chase it away, you embrace it. You embrace it strongly with both hands, giving it space. Thus teaching us all to live with the pain, to contain it and to embrace it.”
She said her father’s ability to speak about the pain and his son’s death “with emotion and without being afraid” has given the family the ability to “live with the pain... to combine it with life... to endure the pain, accept it, to be open-minded and to have courage and compassion.”
Gunders, who has organized similar events for more than 1,000 bereaved families since founding the Or Lamishpachot Association in 2008, thanked the participants for attending the event.
“Your presence here today symbolizes the message of getting up, of shaking off and regeneration,” she said, adding that they have taken “small steps, with faith and determination,” for the sake of their families to start each week since their losses.
“Talking, laughing, sharing and daring to touch on things that don’t touch you on a daily basis... Thank you for deciding to change your routine and come to an event that is all about you,” Gunders said.