NAVAH in the News
'How is this night different? My
son is no longer with me'
Jerusalem Post - Jerusalem
Apr 12, 2006
(Copyright 2006 The Jerusalem Post)
"When a chair is empty on Pessah eve," says Yitzhak
Boussidan, "it is tough to be at home." Boussidan is not referring
to the chair traditionally left empty for the Prophet Elijah.
Palestinian terrorists killed Amit, Boussidan's son,
while he was trying to evacuate a wounded fellow soldier from a
Palestinian refugee camp near Jenin on April 9, 2002. Like every
year since his son's death, this Pessah Boussidan will join others
who would otherwise have one too many empty chairs at home.
Some 160 people will meet at the Etap Hotel near
Kiryat Shmona for a Pessah Seder organized by NAVAH (Non- profit
Association for Volunteering and Assisting the Hurt), a support
group for terror victims. The retelling of the Exodus narrative will
mingle with other stories of pain, loss and survival.
Zion Buskila lost his son Eliran on June 5, 2002, in
a terrorist bombing that killed 17 people near the Megiddo Junction.
The attack was intended to coincide with the anniversary of the
beginning of the Six Day War.
"The Torah says, 'And you shall tell your son on
that day,'" says Buskila, quoting from the Haggada. "But my son is
no longer with me. The Seder is a constant reminder of that."
For Boussidan, the most painful part of the Haggada
is the Four Questions.
"How does this night differ from all other nights?"
asks Boussidian rhetorically. "My son is no longer with me."
Tehilla Friedman, who founded NAVAH with her husband
in 2001, felt the best way to help those affected by terrorism -
bereaved families and those wounded in terrorist attacks - would be
to bring them together. Despite the group's success, however, this
was the first year the group has not been able to meet expenses, she
"There is no need for psychologists," says Friedman.
"Our guests raise each others' spirits."
Boussidan says of the night's significance,
"Each of us lost a part of ourselves. A foot. An eye. A son. But no
matter what they try to destroy, they cannot destroy our souls," she
2005 0:01 | Updated Apr. 30, 2005 15:03
Passover of pain
Despite the Pessah holiday music
playing in the background, the sorrow was palpable among the 150 people
united by their losses in terrorist attacks over the past five years.
The Sunday evening program held at the Jerusalem
Tower Hotel brought to a close a weekend Pessah getaway organized by
NAVAH (Nonprofit Association for Volunteering and Assisting the
Hurt), an organization which acts as a support group for victims of
terror and their families.
They came from all over Israel. Most of them had
never met each other before their personal tragedies, yet they all
said that they were united now by a sense of loss and pain.
Said Yael Boussidan, who lost her brother when he
fell alongside 12 of his IDF comrades in an ambush in Jenin in April
2002, "On the outside we carry on smiling, laughing and dancing, but
we know that we will never again be able to feel that same degree of
They have formed a community, dependent on one
another. Her bleary eyes masked by dark sunglasses, her voice
quavering, Silla Naveypour of Netanya, whose son was killed in an
attack at the Megiddo Junction in June 2002, said that this group of
people had become the only real family she had.
Repeatedly stressing how difficult her days have
become since the attack, Naveypour said, "I truthfully don't know
how I'll be able to continue when I return home tomorrow."
NAVAH, founded by Yitzchak and Tehilla Friedman in
2001, has become known among families of terror victims for the
emotional and social support it offers, in addition to financial and
material assistance. This is the second consecutive year that NAVAH
has hosted the Pessah program and the organization holds social
events on a regular basis around the year. Additionally, NAVAH
operates a telephone hot line which provides these victims of terror
with an outlet to voice their emotions and speak with others who
have shared their tragic experiences.
The organization began as a private effort of
bringing gift baskets to hospitals after terror attacks and slowly
developed into a fully operational nonprofit. Tehilla says there is
no substitute for the social network that exists among these
families, "Events like these allow the families to face others who
suffered similar traumas and to strengthen one another."
Dalia Flistian lost her parents in the Park Hotel
bombing on the evening of the Seder exactly three years ago.
Flistian described NAVAH as the only real familial network she now
"Friends and even extended family members simply
cannot understand what we continue to go through. What NAVAH can
provide is spiritual assistance without which I simply wouldn't be
able to cope celebrating the holiday with any degree of normalcy,"
"Pessah is undoubtedly the most family oriented of
the holidays," acknowledged Nissan Raziel of Hadera whose son Dotan
was killed at age 21 also in the bombing at the Megiddo Junction.
"To be at home, with all the memories of the Seder where we used to
sit and talk, having to face Dotan's empty chair would simply have
been far too difficult. We share an intimate connection with these
other families and we now truly see ourselves as one large family."
For Shiri Shefi, accompanied by her husband, two
sons and an infant daughter, spending time with families who share
her grief has been one of the factors which have sustained her. The
Shefi family lost their five-year-old daughter Danielle in April
2002 when a Palestinian gunman entered their home in Moshav Adora,
headed towards the children's bedroom and began firing.
A bullet grazed their son's head and he was
seriously wounded, but has recovered. The scar is still very
obvious, even as he danced and played his drums around the dance
The Shefis, who have moved several times over the
last three years in an attempt to escape the bitter memories, say
that being with NAVAH for Pessah "fills our hearts so that we are
able to continue."
All in attendance pleaded for the world not to
forget the plight of these families. As Mordechai Lacham of Haifa
tightly clutched a photo of his son Eli, a 21 year old elite combat
soldier who was killed in the Megiddo attack, he urged people to
realize that nothing will ever reverse what has already been lost.
"Even if the numbers of attacks are reduced, you
must not forget the hundreds of people like us who have already been
hurt. These are people who have been damaged for the rest of their
lives and the world needs to recognize that this pain continues
regardless of what is going on in the outside world."
As the families prepared to return to their regular
routines, Yael Boussidan said that for this unique community, Pessah
is one of the most difficult of all holidays.
"While Jews all over the world are celebrating
being taken out of slavery, for our families this time of year is a
reminder that we have become slaves to sorrow, pain and tears. When
we reach that point in the Seder when we read about going out from
bondage and freedom, we don't feel so free."
For further information:
Leavening the Pain
A Support Group Helps Israeli Survivors of Attacks
Venture Back Into the World
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 8, 2004; Page C01
They came with broken bodies and broken hearts, survivors of
bullets, suicide bombers and car bombs.
Ex-farmer Tzion Moshe raised his shirt to show a belly that
looked like lumps of kneaded dough after eight operations to put his insides
Two-year-old Shira Cohen's skin was purple where it
stretched over the shards of metal embedded in baby cheeks.
Former secretary Pera Baruch's carefully manicured fingers
shook so severely she could barely hold a glass of iced tea.
In a week that is supposed to be one of the most joyous on
the Jewish calendar, 80 Israelis -- all victims of attacks that have spanned
the past 31/2 years of conflict -- gathered Tuesday to share Passover
celebrations at a Jerusalem hotel, courtesy of a support group called NAVAH
(Nonprofit Association for Volunteering and Assisting the Hurt).
They sang boisterously at the Passover Seder table, laughed
through a clown performance or chatted quietly at lobby cafe tables. But in
rooms filled with the physically scarred and psychologically fragile, the
invisible wounds surfaced repeatedly as survivors struggled to reconcile the
normalcy and traditions of the holiday season with the abnormal lives they
have come to face.
"We heard about terrorist attacks, but we didn't know what
it was like for the families until it happened to us," said Tziona Moshe,
50, whose husband, Tzion, was shot in the back three times by Palestinian
gunmen who opened fire on a polling station in the northern Israeli town of
Beit Shean in November 2002.
Six people died in that attack.
"Sometimes it's better to be dead than alive and wounded,"
interjected 50-year-old Tzion, a small man with birdlike eyes and bristly
gray hair who once tended cucumbers, tomatoes and onions in the Bet Yusef
agricultural community where he lives in northern Israel. "I went to vote
and I got three bullets for no reason. I used to be an independent guy, I
worked by myself. Now, I sit at home and I'm in pain all the time."
"To see him in this state is very hard," said his wife,
nodding toward her husband, who sat on a bench, an uncomfortable spectator
in a lobby echoing with animated discussions.
"This is only the second time I've left the house, except to
see doctors," said Tzion. He said he spent eight months in the hospital
undergoing repairs to a leg that is paralyzed and to intestines and other
organs that have yet to heal.
It was survivors such as Moshe whom NAVAH organizers
recruited to join the Passover celebration in hopes of helping them reengage
"We had to push," said Yitzhak Friedman, 30, who helped
found the organization two years ago with his wife, Tehila, 29, to dispense
food baskets, financial assistance and, most important, companionship and
emotional support to families of those killed or injured in attacks. "Some
didn't want to come."
Adding to the challenge, the group held the three-day
retreat that ended Wednesday at a hotel in an Arab neighborhood of eastern
Jerusalem, where Palestinian waiters served the Passover meal. It was also
the second anniversary of the most infamous of Israel's suicide bombings --
the 2002 Passover attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya that killed 30 people
at a Seder meal, the highest death toll of any attack against Israelis
during the conflict. "They came together here anyway and were able to step
back into society," said Friedman, a New York native.
He noted that the organization had coordinated extra police
security at the building entrance to help calm jittery participants.
Pera Baruch, a 38-year-old single mother who was hit by
shrapnel in a car bombing in 2001, sat at a lobby table. With a tousled mane
of brown curls and fire-engine-red lipstick, she smiled cheerfully with no
outward signs of an ailment.
"I was only lightly injured," she offered. But within weeks,
she was hit by the aftershock. She became so tired she could barely get out
of bed. She lost her short-term memory and her ability to read. She began to
stutter and lost all feeling in her chin and jaw. Nearly three years later,
the symptoms remain.
Without warning, tears spilled over her black eyeliner.
"The worst part is the court took my son away
because I couldn't take care of him," she said between sniffles. She said
the 6-year-old was sent to a foster home and is allowed to visit her once
every two weeks.
"It was hard to see the other children here when my child is
not here," she said, holding a tissue to her eyes to dab tears and to avert
her gaze from a small flock of youngsters in new Passover dresses and suits
as they pattered past her table.
That flock belonged to Ora Cohen, a stern-faced Iranian
native who had gone with her husband and five children to the Western Wall
in Jerusalem's Old City to celebrate the couple's ninth wedding anniversary
Aug. 19 and "to give God thanks for five healthy kids."
On the way home, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives
inside their bus.
"All five of my kids were injured," she said, as were she
and her husband. "They found my baby buried under three bodies."
Shira Cohen, looking older than her 2 years, wears
wire-rimmed glasses over an eye she may still lose. Her face is scarred and
lumpy; tiny pieces of metal fragments from the bomb remain beneath the
surface of the skin. The mother grabbed her 7-year-old daughter. "Here, feel
behind her neck."
Under the pale white skin is a hunk of metal.
"All of my kids are still in treatment," she said. "I need
surgery in one ear, but I don't have time to do it. We spend all our time
going to doctors. The kids are hyperactive; they're scared of every little
But for a few hours Tuesday night, Shira, wearing a burgundy
velvet dress, danced and laughed with her brothers and sisters as the broken
and brokenhearted momentarily forgot their wounds.
Dalia Plastian-Karim, enjoys a song with Orit, Aviva and Oshra Ballas at
a Passover celebration in Jerusalem for survivors of Palestinian