March 31, 2011
Bringing Joy to Families Touched by Pain: Volunteering with Terror Victims in Israel
by Chaya Cunin, participant in Masa Israel’s Machon Shoshanat Yerushalayim
Throughout the world and in Israel, terror is a horrific reality. Fortunately, being in Israel this year on a Masa Israel program has presented me with many opportunities to think, speak and most importantly, take action in support of Israel. One of my most meaningful volunteer placements enables me to spend time with victims of terror, giving them an extra dosage of love and support.
Through the Chabad Terror Victims Project, my friend, Etty Winner and I were matched up with a Persian family in Jerusalem. On August 19, 2003, the family was riding a city bus, the mother holding her baby in her lap, when a terrorist blew himself up. The whole family was injured and sent to the hospital. The baby was killed in her mother’s arms.
Before we met the family, Etty and I assumed we would spend our visits acting as social workers, listening to the family’s pain and sorrow. But we were wrong. The family has found strength amidst pain to carry on with day-to-day life and they continually inspire us. To show our support, we spend time with the children, allowing the parents a moment to rest and letting them know that they are not forgotten.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Etty and I head over to the family’s home in Jerusalem. With a special activity for the children in tow, we are as excited to see the children as the children are to see us. We bring puzzles and games, toys and arts and crafts projects, which allow them to express their individuality. Since the beginning of the year, they have crafted charity boxes and decorated star magnets to proudly display their photos on the fridge. We spend hours finding projects that would best foster the children’s talents and creativity.
Before Chanukah, we helped them get into the holiday spirit by throwing them a party complete with sufganiyot, latkes and wooden dreidel decorating. As Purim approached, they created handmade wooden groggers.
The children’s birthdays, their time to celebrate life, are very important days for survivors–and we make them as special as possible with a ‘party-in-a-bag’. Along with inviting their friends to share in the festivities, we eat delicious treats, sing ‘Yom Huledet Samayach’ and play fun games. When it is not a holiday or birthday—we still make sure the children have fun—with trips to the park, and ice cream and popcorn snacks.
By volunteering with terror victims, we show the family, the Jewish community and the world at large that terror should not be tolerated. We help them take one day at a time and carry on with life.
In the wake of the Fogel family tragedy in Itamar, and the horrific recent bombing in central Jerusalem, we are now trying to cope with the pain that this intolerable, brutal terrorism causes. Having grown so close to victims of terror, it is especially hard to digest the harsh events that have taken place. I continue to pray for the time when peace and harmony will reign, and all sadness and hostility will be replaced with joy and unity.