Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici (third from left) joined the hikers when they arrived at the retreat.
Recently, 47 Canadians and more than 100 Israeli terror victims gathered for the eighth annual OneFamily Cross Israel Hike, a challenging five-day sea-to-sea trek organized to raise money and awareness for Israeli terror victims.
OneFamily (www.onefamilytogether.org), Israel’s leading national organization rebuilding, rehabilitating and reintegrating Israel’s injured and bereaved victims of terror and war, established the event to present Canadian supporters with an opportunity to empower and connect with terror victims. This year’s theme, Hiking for Israel IN Israel, took on an added level of importance and meaning given the events of this past summer.
“Hiking is a perfect way to show our solidarity. By supporting victims of terror, we help them heal one step at a time, one family at a time,” explained Julie Schwartz, a native of Toronto and an eight-time event participant.
“Hiking is also a beautiful metaphor. Those who deal with a loss must keep moving forward…. As survivors, they choose life and keep putting one foot in front of the other,” said Schwartz, who had lost her own son many years ago in Canada.
The five-day hike through Israel’s Upper Galilee started at the white chalk hills of Rosh Hanikra by the Mediterranean Sea, followed by Nachal Kziv in the Western Galilee through the Summit Trail of Mount Meron to the Amud River. The sea-to-sea journey ended with a victorious splash in the Sea of Galilee.
“For me, the hike is about connections – connecting with the families who need help, connecting with the land and the people of Israel, and reaching a deeper level of understanding within ourselves,” said Pam Albert, former executive director of OneFamily Canada.
“For the many victims of terror who walked with us, it meant simply moving beyond the trauma, surviving another day and reclaiming their lives.”
The most high-profile member of the group was Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici. She joined the hikers when they arrived at the retreat, where bereaved parents were attending an outdoor therapy session.
The ambassador was emotional when she addressed the group, applauding OneFamily in Israel for their “important and life-altering” work. She shared that she was truly inspired by the courage and strength of the victims and honoured to recognize them by joining in the hike.
“It’s no wonder that the ambassador was so moved by the experience,” explained Gary Tile, executive director of OneFamily Canada. “The physical and emotional beauty of this event as well as the bonds forged with the victims compel the participants to return year after year, bringing friends and family with them.”