Capturing their moments

Jerusalem photographer Nir Alon documents a year in the life of children assisted by the Malki Foundation.

Everyone copes with death in his or her own way. Coming to the realization that your loved one is not coming back and deciding how you will live with his or her absence is an extremely personal process. Frimet and Arnold Roth are intimately familiar with the grieving process. In 2001, their 15-year-old daughter Malki was killed in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem. As a result of the decisions the Roths made while recovering from this loss, thousands of lives have been helped. Malki had always been committed to helping disabled children. She had written about the experience of growing up with her disabled sister Chaya in the US publication Exceptional Parenthood, and volunteered for the Etgarim camp for disabled children. Given this passion for helping disabled children, her parents felt it appropriate to start the Malki Foundation to assist families with raising their disabled children at home. Today, Malki's legacy is alive not only in the foundation, but also in a moving photographic tribute to the foundation's work by Jerusalem photographer Nir Alon. In July 2007 Alon received a copy of a Letter to the Editor of The New York Times written by Arnold Roth in which he criticized the paper's decision to print a glamour-style photo of a smiling terrorist, Ahlam Tamimi, to accompany an article. After going through the Malki Foundation Web site Alon was touched. "I was captivated by Malki's tragedy and the way [her family] tried to climb out of their grief by honoring what Malki had done in her short life," he says. Alon then wrote to Roth, introducing himself as a photographer, saying he wanted to do something with the foundation to help in his own way. He wanted to photograph the children. Roth, however, explained that as a matter of policy, to ensure the privacy of the families, the foundation had no direct contact with the families once they passed the screening process by an acceptance committee. Upon further inspection, however, the families, especially the children, were more than willing to participate, recalls Alon. "The children were happy to be the stars. And their parents are grateful for the support they receive from the Malki Foundation." As such, for the past year Alon has captured the world of the children the Malki Foundation helps. The finished product opens a window into a world many people never get to see. It is a world Alon describes as the "triumph of optimism and love over challenge." Having witnessed the successes that emerge out of the children's therapies, Alon, who had no past experience with disabled children, admits he has been changed and hopes others who see the exhibit will be too. "It opened my eyes to the efforts of others, to the challenges that these children and their families face, and their struggles to overcome their challenges. And they succeed and it's a beautiful thing." To date, the foundation has funded over 25,000 physical, occupational, speech, hydro and horse-riding therapies and has supplied homecare equipment to more than 2,000 children. Alon's project, "Malki's Legacy: The Story of Hate-inflicted Death Nurturing Love and Giving, Nurturing Life," premiered at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem in June and can be seen on Alon's Web site: