As I walked through the door out to the lawn I was hit by the sounds of the mellow music and the chatter and the laughter. Women lounging under the gazebo, stretching their way through a yoga class, canoeing on the river, building rafts from pieces of wood. Four lay on massage beds behind a screen; lost in the treat of their treatments. To the right I could see some other ladies floating dreamily in the indoor swimming pool; each being held by a water therapist.
The ultimate girls’ day out was nearing its end. Its participants seemed to be so in the mood and the moment together that I could not imagine how they would ever be persuaded to get up and leave for their homes; spread across the length and the breadth of Israel. Lost in this comfort zone, tended by a team of professionals who they have each come to love and to trust.
As the tempo and volume of the music was turned up, the ladies got themselves up, one by one, to join the dancing and the singing circles. To celebrate the feel good of the day and the togetherness that was elevating them to a place of happiness and release. Losing my own inhibitions and roused by the energy and good cheer, I kicked of my shoes and joined the dance circle. I admired how well organized and well equipped the event was.
120 women, each bereaved of at least one child through an act of terror or war, on their OneFamily day retreat near Bet Shean. The sun had shone for them throughout the day. And now their eyes shone with looks of serenity, contentment, and satisfaction.
As they gathered themselves and their belongings together to move to the dining hall at the other side of the kibbutz near Bet Shean, they broke into groups of two or more, linked arms and schmoozed their way to the finale dinner. Batya, Mindy, Nava and Pini – OneFamily’s long standing team of case workers who are the critical lynch-pin in all of OneFamily’s activities – gently shepherded and nurtured the throng on their way. A sisterhood. A fraternity. A network of women brought together by the ugliest of traumas, each devastated by the sudden loss of a precious child, yet unconsciously exuding the power of together as individuals and collectively on this “yom kef”.
Dinnertime felt like a family simcha as the ladies moved around the room, hugging and chatting with each other a little more, and saying their farewells to each other and their thank-you’s to their beloved case workers. And then the lady whose vision, determination, empathy, devotion and elegance has made it all happen, Chantal Belzberg, arrived, joined the party, and concluded the program with her warmth and her words. Photos were taken. Final farewells were expressed, and the participants headed for home.
The day had been a breath of fresh air. Another step in their lifelong challenge to recover, rebuild and rehabilitate from their cruel losses. The air of warm familiarity a reminder that even the hugest, horrible, blackest of clouds can have glimmers of a silver lining; new friendships, shared moments, bursts of feel-good, reconnecting with positive emotions that you feared you might never, ever feel again.
Thank you OneFamily for making it happen…again.
Thank you OneFamily for delivering your mission:
“To bring Israel’s victims of terror attacks together into one, national, self-supportive family.”
Thank you OneFamily for being there. For making the good stuff happen. For being steadfast and loyal and creative. For giving these 120 bereaved mothers a new family in which to heal and to feel.
– Madelaine Black 11/27/2017
And thank you to Madelaine Black for sponsoring the day!