I made the three-hour trip north from Jerusalem to Tel Hai for the One Family Fund Summer Camp Visitor’s Day dinner. I was really curious and excited to see what an Israeli camp looks like, and, needless to say, I was blown away. Arriving at the location shortly before the campers, my first impression was amazement at the beauty of the place: a lush green field surrounded, on all sides, by mountains. The sun was setting and it was breezy. “What a perfect place,” I thought, “for a group of children to eat and play and dance into the night, creating what are sure to be lasting memories.”
Suddenly, the silence was broken when a group of kids ran onto the field in matching green T-shirts, singing and cheering popular Hebrew songs with huge smiles on their faces. I couldn’t believe how full of energy and spirit everyone was. It was really amazing and uplifting to see. What struck me most of all was the apparent closeness, the special relationships, that I noticed between the campers and counsellors. There was clearly so much love and trust between them. Everyone around me was holding hands, hugging and kissing one another. I saw little boys sitting high on the shoulders of teenagers; girls of all ages laughing and playing together; religious and secular children singing and dancing together. It was really something incredible.
When we sat down for dinner, a little boy approached me and said something, very quickly, in Hebrew. I replied that I didn’t understand what he said but that I’m in Israel to learn Hebrew and maybe he could help me practice. So we started to do a little “question-and-answer” session. I learned that he is 12 years old, from Kiryat Shmona, likes sports and movies and has a younger brother who is annoying. And then I asked him, in Hebrew, why he was here. He looked at me and said, in English, “because my Abba exploded.” On August 3, 2006, two brothers were killed in Acco when a Katyusha missile fired by Hezbollah terrorists hit close to the family’s home. One of them was this little boy’s father and the other was his uncle.
I have spent the past three weeks reading profiles like this, updating information on many of these children, and learning the stories of the “attacks” that changed their lives so completely. I know what has happened to these kids; how much sadness and trauma and shock they have experienced. They are so young and they have been through so much stress and pain. They have lost siblings or parents (or both) something that I really cannot fathom.