More than 230 young victims of terror and bereaved children took part in OneFamily’s three-day Chanukah camp.
Watch our camp video here.
At a special candle-lighting ceremony, children were asked to speak in front of their peers, counselors and staff about the meaning of courage in their lives.
What they said gave great insight into the challenges they face coping with their loss and moving forward with their lives. The following are excerpts from their talks.
Yonatan Chaim, whose sister was killed by terrorists 12 years ago, said he gained courage by learning to trust the people around him. He urged others to do the same.
“I want to give you all courage, all my friends at OneFamily. Courage that you can do anything you want to do. You start with one small step, then another step, and then just one more, creating an act of courage,” he said. “While you are on this courageous journey, you will notice how exciting it is to be able to rely on friends!”
Or lost her father to terror.
“I personally feel as though coping with my life situation requires great levels of courage. Enough courage so that I am able to cope with being different, which I feel sometimes.
“I’m someone who really needs courage, especially when I want to be who I am and do what I really believe in doing.”
Twelve year-old Galor, whose brother was killed in Operation Protective Edge, spoke about the lesson he learned at the camp.
“Now I know that when I want something, even if I’m afraid, I know I can do it,” he said. “Something I really want to do is to give my family courage.”
Benaya lost his brother in the attack on the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva.
“To whom would I want to give courage? I have a very close friend who has gone through severe trauma in the last period of time and is now going through a tough time. It is difficult for him to speak about it and about how he feels. I really would like to give him courage. I would give him courage to speak, share, and to break down sometimes.”
Avigail’s brother was one of three boys kidnapped and killed last summer. She spoke about the different types of courage.
“There is a kind of courage of doing something that has never been done before. As well as apologizing to someone you have hurt,” she said. “I once apologized to a friend when I didn’t believe her about something. I felt brave when I said sorry because it meant admitting something I did wrong.”
Almog spoke about his own experience with terror.
“When I was 4 years old, my mother got on the 16 bus line in Haifa. A terrorist boarded the bus she was on. He wasn’t planning to attack that bus at all, but the bus driver became suspicious, so the terrorist detonated himself earlier than planned.
“For a number of years since this happened, I was closed in and lacking confidence, but this past year there has been a change in me and I began to open up to others. I learned to not fear other people. I don’t know how, but I just gained confidence.”
Efrat and Eliyahu, from the older kids division joined the camp for this special evening. They spoke together about how living regular lives requires courage.
“Courage for us is not to fear the bad times, to continue to travel to our army bases in the Gush and the Shomron without being afraid, and to try our best to continue our daily routines as much as possible.”
Keren, a new OneFamily counselor from the older division, said she struggled with how she would approach kids she never met.
“It was difficult for me at the beginning and required a lot of courage. But the relationships quickly develop in a way that is difficult to describe to an outsider.
“I understood that each camper is an entire world, one with thoughts and feelings and somehow within the difference this is a place that accepts you and connects you to each other.”
Annael said she hoped the campers would find the courage “so that we all have a great journey full of exciting experiences and connections. And to those who have been here longer, that you continue to bring happiness everywhere.”
Miriam, sister of Shachar, the last soldier killed in Operation Protective Edge just weeks before Miriam’s 20th birthday, spoke about her difficulty speaking openly about her life.
“From the day I joined OneFamily, I felt my mindset starting to change. Here I feel like I fit in and am accepted, which makes it easier,” she said.
Yitzhak’s brother was also killed in Operation Protective Edge. He spoke warmly about finding his place with OneFamily.
“Last year’s Chanukah camp was my first with OneFamily. I was accepted immediately and I understood what was happening. On one hand the atmosphere here is light. We laugh, we dance and we enjoy ourselves. On the other hand, it is about listening and understanding. The combination of the two parts is something I’ve only found here.”
Batia spoke in detail about how she learned to accept her step-mother without losing her connection to her biological mother, who was killed when Batia was only four years old.
“In my life, I was forced to get used to the idea of two mothers. One mother, which I don’t remember as much on the outside but inside is impossible to forget, and another one that is present, visible and living around me but one I can’t always open up to and speak to freely to let her know me.
“Before I joined OneFamily, I would refuse to talk about my mother who is no longer with us…but the boundless sharing this evening makes me stronger,” she said.