Israel recently endured a horrifying uptick in terror attacks, reminiscent of the frequent violence that tore through the country more than a decade ago. Coupled with a history marked by wars and military activity, Israelis know unimaginable pain, loss and grief all too well. There are currently 9,000 bereaved parents, 4,500 widows, 19,000 orphans and 55,000 siblings of fallen Israeli soldiers. FIDF supports thousands of bereaved family members who have suffered the devastating loss of a loved one during service, offering them support as they rebuild their lives and futures.
More than a dozen Bereaved Family Retreats are funded by FIDF each year, where family members of fallen soldiers can bond and process their grief with others who have experienced similar loss. Hosted in the beautiful vacation village of Givat Olga and tailored to specific groups, retreat attendees are offered lectures, enrichment workshops, performances, and other activities in a peaceful setting by the sea.
Esther Ben Yehuda lost her brother, Staff Sargent Yosef Eliel (z”l), during the First Lebanon War and son, Major (Res.) Eliel Ben Yehuda (z”l), during the Second Lebanon War. She regularly takes part in – and depends on – FIDF Bereaved Family Retreats as part of her ongoing healing process. “Although the retreats remind me of Yossi and Eliel, which can be difficult, I choose to go to be among others like me. Even though we each experience bereavement differently, there is something very deep that connects us all.”
With a similar goal, FIDF’s Legacy Summer Camp is a unique camp experience in the United States provided to approximately 50 B’nai Mitzvah children and siblings of fallen soldiers each year. This year’s camp us running from July 11-25 after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19. The campers, accompanied by counselors who also lost a loved one and attended the program when they were of age, are enjoying 11 activity-filled days at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, FIDF supporters are hosting the group for Shabbat with the FIDF Baltimore community. Campers will then enjoy a tour of New York City followed by a pool party and barbeque at an FIDF Westchester donor’s home before they head back to Israel.
The need to support bereaved families is ongoing, as the pain never fully heals. We are continually thankful to FIDF supporters who so graciously help make these critical programs possible year after year.