I’ve just returned from the 11th memorial service for Koby Mandell with one wish: that I could write in Arabic.
Koby was killed at the age of 13, with his friend Yosef Ish-Ran, while they were playing hooky from school, looking for wood for the Lag BaOmer campfire in the wadi near their homes in Tekoa. I don’t want to want to go into the brutal facts of the terror attack – that the boys could be identified only through dental X-rays, that their blood was smeared on the walls of the cave in which they were found…
I want, rather, to think about the fact that we Israelis never get to read a Palestinian point of view, even in our most progressive newspapers. I’m sure the Palestinians don’t get to read a Jewish Israeli point of view in theirs.
Why this silence? Are both nations so afraid of what the other might say to us?
Here is what I would like our Palestinian cousins – for we both accept that we are the descendents of brothers — to know about this one evening in Israel:
At the lesson given at the Mandells’ home after the graveside service, Rabbi Yitzhak Breitowitz said that the thousands of people who have been helped by the Koby Mandell Foundation would not have been helped if Koby had not died al Kiddush Hashem – to sanctify God’s name – as we Jews think of one who is martyred for being Jewish. And that this help affects not only them but all their descendents.
Shortly after Koby died, Sherri and Seth began using their experience to help people whose children, parents or siblings had been killed in terror attacks to process the pain and to begin to go on with their lives. They transformed their tragedy into an act of healing.
Sherri herself had been helped by friends who were grief counselors and massage therapists. She’d discovered that if she did yoga, or tai chi or made sure to swim, the pain would move through her body rather than get stuck there.
One day, Rina Ish Ran, Yosef’s mother, told Sherri what she really wanted was three days in a seaside hotel. Sherri put two and two together and created mothers’ healing retreats for moms whose children had been killed in terror attacks. She brought groups of women to seaside hotels where they got to share with others who had experienced the same tragedy, participate in art and other professionally-led therapy sessions, get healing massages and yoga instruction – even sing together in a setting where they felt completely understood.
A short while later, they created Camp Koby, where every Chanukah and summer, hundreds of children whose mother or father, sister or brother had been killed in an attack, get to spent 10 dyas where they feel just like everyone else and where expert counselors help them heal through play, art, movement, drama therapy and other modalities.
I believe that if I could write about the Mandell’s work in an Arabic language newspaper, hearts would be moved.
At the same time, I’d like to read about the people behind the tragic headlines on the Palestinian side.
We are all people whose hearts have been broken by this conflict. Perhaps if we were exposed to each others’ pain, our hearts would expand and we would find a way to peace.