OneFamily Retreat for the Injured Shows the Power of Together

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Caption: Shuki Gilboa, who lost an eye trying to save 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel from a stabbing attack, sitting beside the pool playing catch with his son, while his wife and other children watch.


OneFamily Brings Injured Victims Together in Tiberias

When people suffer an injury in a terrorist attack, it takes time for the physical wounds to heal. But the emotional scars from the trauma stay with them much longer, often for the rest of their lives.

To help ease the emotional pain, OneFamily brought 45 families – about 200 people – from the recent wave of terror together for a 3-day retreat in Tiberias. In between rest and recreation, the wounded and their families participated in group therapy sessions designed to help them talk about their struggles and see that they are not alone.

The goal, of course, is to help the families return to normal as much as possible.

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According to the Jerusalem Post coverage of the retreat:

This is not an easy task, as the majority of survivors in the retreat faced near-death experiences within the past year. According to Yehuda Ish Shalom, a clinical social worker for OneFamily, these victims “are still adapting to the new reality.” Ish Shalom tells the participants that it is “normal to feel abnormal.”


Participants also took part in group therapy sessions where they were able to bond and share experiences.


“It is unbelievable how much support these victims get from each other.” said Mindy Levinger, the Jerusalem-area director of OneFamily.


“A one-hour group therapy session ended up going for nearly four hours. It was as powerful as 100 psychologists.”


According to Ish Shalom, group therapy plays an important role in the recovery process.


“It is something liberating for the participants. They are not judged and they are surrounding by people who understand them… They hear other peoples’ source of strength and they can use it for themselves.”

While many of the injured have mostly recovered from the physical injures, they are still unable to function at their previous level. Chantal Belzberg, CEO of OneFamily, told the Jerusalem Post they have a hard time demonstrating their disability to government agencies.

“How does a terror victim prove that he is unable to sleep because of nightmares?” she asked.


“On the surface they seem fine, but underneath you don’t realize the level of physical and emotional trauma.”


Avi Avital [injured in February at a Rami Levy supermarket] said that Israel’s immense bureaucracy is the greatest challenge.


“The state does not give a lot, and there is a lot [of] bureaucracy, I just received my aid check from April after three months. This is the money I depend on to feed my family,” he said.


OneFamily hopes to fill the gap, providing financial assistance and aid to victims and their families.

According to a Ynet article, victims bear the additional stress of guilt for surviving when others were killed. Avi Avital, for example, still feels pain over the fact that Tuvia Yania Weisman was stabbed to death in the same attack.

Avital, who was stabbed five times, said that in addition to the trauma of the attack, he knows that Weisman was killed trying to save him and cannot let go of it. “It stays with you that someone came to your aid because of your screams, and was killed,” he said. “This is very difficult for me. It’s impossible to say that the story is over because we recover physically. Everything stays with you in your mind. The physical wounds heal, but in the head and heart, it’s always sitting with you. “

Arutz Sheva’s coverage of the retreat focused on the story of Nirit Zamorah, a mother of eight who was severely injured in a stabbing attack outside a supermarket in Gush Etzion.

Nirit went on a retreat in Tiberias this week organized by the “OneFamily” organization for those hit by terror attacks during the recent wave over the past year or so. She said meeting other people who’d been victims of terror was a powerful experience. “The conversations bring up many things that are difficult to talk about generally. Everyone talks about the miracles they experienced and how much gratitude we have for G-d, the doctors, National Insurance, and of course OneFamily.”


At the end of her interview with Arutz Sheva, Nirit wanted to deliver a message to the public:


“We do need to have a lot of sensitivity towards victims of attacks. The resources, physical and mental, are available, but you never go back to the way you were. It’s entirely different from the pain of bereavement. It’s a kind of pain that continues all the time, but we must always remember that we have tremendous gratitude to G-d and the doctors.”

Helping the Spouses Cope with Change

When mothers or fathers are injured, they are no longer able to carry out the roles they were accustomed to for their children. If the person who is injured was the primary provider for the family, that impacts the family in multiple ways. The injured person not only suffers the injuries but also the loss of self-respect as he or she is unable to do what is expected for the family.

But bringing them all together – the parents and the children – helps the wounded person regain the lost self-respect because the family is functioning as normal, with everyone doing what they feel they need to do.

There is also a great deal of pressure on the spouse of the injured, who also has to cope with a new reality. The retreat featured two group therapy sessions for the spouses, whose needs are different than the needs of the injured.

“We did not focus on what happened in the actual attack, but rather following the attack, what gave them strength and what was difficult,” said pychologist Yehuda Ish Shalom. “This helped the families, as similar problems were discussed and people recognized that they were not alone.”

Highlights of the Retreat

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Three-year-old Tahel (in the pink hat above) was severely burned in a firebombing in October. Her mother Sigal, who was also stabbed in 2004 in Gush Katif, said the retreat was a needed respite for the family. “It was important for my children to attend as it was so frightening for them to see their little sister be burned in the attack,” During the retreat, she was allowed to remove a special pressure vest she wears to protect her skin from infections, and was able to go in the water to swim.

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Another participant, Gabi, who was seriously wounded in Operation Protective Edge, attended the retreat with his wife Dorit and three children. He presented a letter of gratitude to Nava Formanski, OneFamily’s coordinator the central region.

“Nava has been wonderful to us, since the attack. She is always at the end of the phone, regularly visits us during my treatment in Tel Hashomer hospital and she always brings me my favorite cakes just to brighten up the day. It is this personal approach which makes OneFamily stand out from other organizations.”

Michlelet Ridman sent a number of volunteer massage therapists, including Mordi Cohen, who himself was injured 10 years ago during the Second Lebanon War. Retreat participants and their spouses were welcome to get treatments throughout the day.

“I don’t have the money to do such treatments usually so this was an amazing treat,” said Chani, who had been injured by a Grad Missile during Operation Protective Edge, adding that the treatment removed all the knots and tension in his back.

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There was also an afternoon of creative therapeutic activities. Sophie Vardi, ran a special floral crown workshop, explained that research has been carried out proving that flowers are beneficial for well-being and healing.

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Mendy Rivkin, who suffered severe injuries from a stabbing attack in January, summed his experience from the three days away from his regular routine:

“This retreat has provided me the space to spend time and reconnect with my wife and kids and also to meet others undergoing PTSD following a terror attack and understand my fears and symptoms are normal.”


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