Healing Retreat for Bereaved Families of Ethiopian Origin
Beit Yehuda Guesthouse, Jerusalem, August 13-14, 2012
The families, including 59 parents, children and grandparents, all endured terrible loss recently and received practical aid and comfort from SELAH at the time of their personal tragedy. Many had lost a child; others endured family violence ending in the death of parents. All remain immersed in grief. This retreat, centered around special sites in Jerusalem, including the Kotel, with age-appropriate activities for 34 children, brought the families out of their homes, gathering them together, to receive some comfort knowing they are not alone.
The touring introduced the people to places some had never seen, but had long dreamed of. It also introduced them to each other. By the second day, they were able to join an intensive session with Amharic-speaking facilitators, and connect in profound peer support and strengthening. The intensity was relieved by time for relaxation and rest, traditional Ethiopian music/movement workshops and shared family meals and activities.
Sibling-Headed Orphaned Ethiopian Families Healing Retreat
Jerusalem, July 31-August 1, 2012
As part of SELAH’s summer programs for the special populations in its care, SELAH held a healing retreat for sibling-headed families of Ethiopian origin, with separate tracks for the older caregiving brothers and sisters and the orphaned younger siblings they are raising on their own. The retreat took in the Jerusalem area, with close to 50 brothers and sisters participating in rich, meaningful programs tailored for their age groups.
In a peer support session led by psychologist Ethiopia Lacha and social worker Mamuye Zere (right), older sibling shared how their families were faring, including the many problems and challenges. With all the difficulty, however, many reported that the children are doing well in school, and some have the feeling that they have finally been able to pursue their own dreams while still holding the family together. Four older siblings in the group were married this past year, with three new babies brought into the world. The sibling caregivers are belatedly pursuing their own studies, and their lives, somehow managing, against all odds, to balance their tremendous responsibilities.
Healing Retreat for Grandparents Raising Their Orphaned Grandchildren
Kfar Ha'Maccabia, April 20-21, 2012
A week after Passover, 2012, SELAH gathered 46 grandparents and the 39 orphaned grandchildren they are raising for a weekend retreat, especially designed as a strengthening break from difficult daily routine, with three tracks of activities. It also provided an opportunity to join together with others who deal with similar hardships and situations, and to share experiences in a supportive environment. Most of the grandparents in this retreat join in SELAH support sessions held during the year, in the center of the country, as well as the North. The connections formed in the support groups and the retreat continue, and the many grandparents stay in contact through the year, which helps to relieve the loneliness and isolation they often feel, as they face bereavement, advancing age, and the tremendous responsibility of raising the children.
The first day started at Park Ha'Yarkon in Tel Aviv, where, after a light snack, the children visited the Tzapari bird reserve, and the teens enjoyed a bike ride through the park. The grandparents were taken on a guided sailing tour on the Yarkon and then rode on motorized trolleys through the park.
Back at Kfar Ha’Maccabia, the participants gathered for a ‘Welcoming the Sabbath,’ with a short talk about the weekly Torah portion, and a Sabbath evening meal. The evening program incorporated a musical journey around the world with a multi-talented accordionist and a prominent singer of international Yiddish music for the grandparents, and supervised games and activities for the younger participants.
The second day, the teens and children were taken on age-appropriate excursions: the children went to the “Apollonia” National Park, with a guided tour that highlighted the fascinating story of the fortress and the unique nature surrounding it; the teenagers hiked along the “Sharon Coast” National Park, including the the kurkar ridges, which overlook the narrow and magnificent coast. In the afternoon, the youth participated in a support group tailored to the special problems they face after the loss of their parents, and the adjustment to having their grandparents in a parental role. These are issues no one but their peers can understand, they claim, and the support group gave voice to their deep conflicts and emotional needs. The grandparents were divided into three support groups led by Russian-speaking SELAH professionals, where they were able to share their experiences, hardships and moments of hope and happiness.
One of SELAH’s professional teams: clockwise from left,
Ella Stolper, social worker; Faina Zeitlin, social worker; Dr. Dina Chanoch, psychiatrist;
Dr. Pinchas Chanoch, physician; Alex Altshuler, social worker.
Healing Retreat for Bereaved Families
Blue Bay Hotel, Netanya, March 16-17, 2012
In mid-March of 2012, SELAH organized an overnight retreat for bereaved families in Netanya. The retreat included a variety of recreational activities for adults, youth and children and special support sessions. Immigrants of both Russian and Ethiopian origin joined, including the bereaved parents, wives, children and other family members of security servicemen who perished in the Carmel Forest fire of December 2010 while on a rescue mission.
Healing Retreat for Sibling-Headed Families of Ethiopian Origin
Nes Ammim, August 14-15, 2011
The retreat included multi-track activities for the children and their sibling-caregivers, combining touring and recreation, which included: a visit to the Navy campaign base in Haifa, a visit to Acco and its fascinating historical sites, pool time at the guest house in Nes Ammim, and a night hike at Rosh Hanikra.
Alongside the uniquely tailored activities, the second day included an intensive peer support workshop, facilitated by SELAH professionals, for the older brothers and sisters raising the orphaned youngsters. In the group meetings, the older siblings shared their stories, their pain, and their dreams, learned coping mechanisms, and explored ways in which it was possible to pursue their own personal goals, even while raising the children.
The peer support groups are at the heart of SELAH retreats, with strong relationships forming between the people participating that carry on throughout the year.
Healing Retreat for Bereaved Families
Kibbutz Amiad Guest House, August 11-13, 2011
Bereaved immigrant families from all over Israel gathered in mid-August for SELAH’s 3-day healing retreat, between Lake Tiberias and the Golan in the north of Israel. The participants were families originally from the Former Soviet Union as well as from Ethiopia, who had lost their loved ones to fire, terror, war, plane crashes, accidents, illness, and family violence.
Two young women whose husbands had been killed in the Carmel Fire of December 2010, and who gave birth just a few months later, were joined by a mother who lost her son in the fire, and the mother, widow, children, and brother of an Ethiopian security service cadet who also lost his life in this tragedy. These families, recently bereaved, were joined by those who endured loss years ago and are still connected to SELAH: a mother who lost her only son in a terror attack in 1996, the daughter of a woman killed in the Siberian Air crash of 2001, the widow of a terror victim from 2002, who has also become an active SELAH volunteer.
Ten Years Later: Daytrip for Bereaved Dolphinarium Families
Mateh Yehuda Region of Central Israel June 24, 2011
Tevatherapy: Training Seminars for SELAH Volunteers
Alonim Forest, April 1, 2011; Nachsholim Beach, May 17, 2011
Tevatherapy is an innovative approach to group-work, drawing on healing and regenerating properties found in nature, and combining metaphors from nature with expressive art and group sharing and support. In the spring of 2011, we organized a pair of intensive training sessions, facilitated by Simona Chanoch, who developed the program for volunteers and other caregivers, to familiarize them with the program, with the goal of tailoring it to meet the special needs and ages of participants in SELAH’s longer-care programs for special populations. The sessions, for some 15 volunteers, took place in the Alonim forest near Bethlehem in the Galilee, and by the Mediterranean sea at Nachsholim. The volunteers experienced the program through movement, artwork, writing, verbal sharing of thoughts, all of which were connected to the natural surroundings. Taking objects from nature, both forest and sea, to express emotions, they also joined in meditative walking and observing nature and used these elements for reflection and renewal. Speaking of the “simple” creations fashioned from the items they found and chose in nature, the participants spoke of childhood, belonging, aliya, the search for self, family, home, control, and more. The discussions, held within safe, non-threatening, and beautiful settings, were emotional and moving.
Seminar and Workshop for SELAH Volunteers
Jordan Valley -- December 24-25, 2010
At the heart of the seminar were the lectures, workshops and training sessions conducted by SELAH staff and guest speakers, including clinical psychologist Eleanor Pardess, and expert on Ethiopian issues Micha Feldmann. They covered in depth such topics as preparedness for emergency situations, growth after crisis, and the special needs of the Ethiopian immigrant community. Short films poignantly told the stories of some of the immigrants now receiving SELAH care in the face of trauma.
The retreat also offered guided tours and hikes in the Jordan Valley, the heart of early Israeli settlement and agriculture with its magnificent views of both nature and Israel's beginning years. The evening program brought the volunteers together for an improvisational session led by director Itzik Hadar.
Throughout the year, throughout the country, SELAH volunteers work alone or in small teams. For these two days, they joined their peers, shared challenges, problems, and even laughter, and saw the larger picture of SELAH, in which they play such an essential role.
Healing Retreat for Bereaved Ethiopian Families
Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov December 7-8, 2010
During the Chanukah 2010 vacation, SELAH gathered together 68 bereaved Ethiopian parents and children from all over Israel, for a two-day therapeutic healing retreat, in the area of Kibbutz Degania, which was Israel's first kibbutz.
SELAH had been there to support the families when they were hit with life-shattering tragedy, giving immediate emergency aid and support. Now, SELAH offered them the chance to be strengthened and supported by each other. The first day of the healing retreat consisted of recreational and cultural activities in beautiful historical settings. On the second day SELAH conducted our unique workshops for coping with bereavement. Conducted by an Amharic-speaking social worker and community worker, the workshops gave the adults a compassionate forum in which to share their life stories….
-- A 74-year-old woman who recently lost her husband, having lost her two children two years earlier, within a month of each other.
-- A father of four whose wife and son were killed in a fire that broke out in their home.
-- Parents whose daughter was murdered by her husband and who are now raising her son, age 3, along with their own four children.
-- A long-time widower whose only son, 15, whom he had been raising alone since the age of 2, fell from a roof while at school, after possibly having been pushed.
For some, it was the first time they had been able to speak to others about their tragedy.
The unique program, taking place in the heart of the State of Israel’s early history, but tailored to the needs and culture of immigrants of Ethiopian origin, ended with the candle-lighting of the last night of Chanukah, signifying the sharing of warmth and light – and hope for the future, even in the face of terrible loss.
Healing Retreat for Bereaved Families from the Former Soviet Union
Kfar Maccabia, November 26-27, 2010
The first day of the retreat was spent in separate age appropriate activities which included hiking, history and stories in the Bet Shemesh area and the Judean Hills. That evening, Shabbat candles were lit, followed by Kabbalat Shabbat, Kiddush, and a festive family dinner. The adults were then treated to a moving performance by Russian actress/singer Natasha Manor, whose heart-rending songs and readings evoked images, memories and emotions from their native country.
The next day, the children went to the renowned Ramat Gan Safari, as their parents joined intensive SELAH healing workshops facilitated by Russian-speaking social workers, psychiatrists, and caregivers, with a separate group for bereaved parents, and another for widows, widowers and siblings. Many of the immigrants were participating in such a group for the first time. Alone and isolated, they were supported and strengthened by others. Using unique, specially developed and culturally sensitive techniques for safely expressing deep and harsh emotions, facilitators encouraged sharing, interaction, connection, comfort, and hope.
Healing Retreat for Grandparents Raising Orphaned Grandchildren
Kibbutz Ginnosar, August 10-11, 2010
All the families are shadowed by tragedy and traumatic loss, with parents surviving their children. Grief-stricken, the elderly grandparents still have to go on, for the sake of the orphaned grandchildren now in their care. During the year, many of the participants attend regular peer support meetings run by SELAH’s Russian-speaking professionals. Here at the retreat, they once again participated in an intensive support group where they spoke of their fears, their love – and hopes -- for the children, the problems of protecting and still letting go, and many of the dilemmas for which there are no easy solutions.
For the children, it was a holiday. Having lost their parents, and being raised by elderly grandparents, they, too, had much in common with each other and bonded in organized group activities, hikes and recreation. Said one child who recently lost his mother: “In school, I’m the only one without a mother and father. I thought there was nobody else like me.” At the SELAH retreat, his first, he realized he was not alone.
For the grandparents, knowing the children were in good hands, with experienced guides, they allowed themselves to relax, enjoy, and to be supported and strengthened. After a full day of touring in the beautiful area of the Sea of Galilee, with separate age-appropriate activities for the children, the families reunited for an evening sail on Lake Kinneret [Hebrew name for Sea of Galilee]. The gentle breezes, the quiet lapping of the water, the tired children in their arms, this was a rare moment of peace and pleasure in their challenging and difficult lives.
The retreat ended with one question on many of the grandparents’ lips: When can we meet like this again?
Seminar and Healing Retreat for Siblings Raising Orphaned Siblings
Sponsored by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals
Kibbutz Nachshonim, May 20-21, 2010
For the participating families, it is critical to receive caring support and to enjoy some time out, where they are relieved, even if only for few days, of some of their responsibilities. Two workshops took place for the siblings who head the families. Led by a social worker and a psychologist who speak their native Amharic and in the presence of their peers, they were able to safely share their challenges and difficulties. With this peer support and professional counseling, the terrible isolation could be eased, and some sweetness added to their lives.
On the first day of the retreat, accompanied by trained youth guides and counselors, participants toured the Burma Road, Ha’Masrek Nature Reserve, and the ancient Herodian Antipatris fortress. That evening, SELAH volunteer Major Shlomi Bicha, a hero in the Second Lebanon War, spoke to the group about his experience growing up in Israel without his parents and becoming an officer in the Israeli army. He inspired the children with his personal story.
The second day – yom kef –included swimming, games and rides in the Nachshonim Park, along with a chance to meet and interact with the families of the employees of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the seminar's sponsor.
Address by Ofra Feinmesser
Country Manager, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Israel
Pfizer joined SELAH and its director Ruth Bar-On about three years ago. We were happy to discover an organization which is an amazing family and to be part of it. Pfizer is a pharmaceutical company and enjoys being part of the community and contributing, by doing, towards a better community.
Right: Mintamer (right) and Fetelwork, each of whom is raising her younger siblings after losing their parents.
Left: Zohar, SELAH counselor (right), with Melessa at Park Nachshonim.
Right: Limor Regev, who heads the SELAH retreat program (right), with Bat-El.
Orphaned children being raised by older siblings, at the SELAH seminar, Kibbutz Nachshonim
Grandparents and the Orphaned Grandchildren They are Raising
Daytrip to Old Gesher -- March 22, 2010
The day's activities centered around Old Gesher in the Jordan Valley, a restored site that tells the story of the establishment of Jewish settlement in this area since the early 1900s, leading up to the War of Independence, when it came under attack. For the new immigrant grandparents, and the children as well, it was a rare, firsthand glimpse into Israel's early challenges and hardships. Guided tours, and a sound and light show in Russian, brought history alive. With jeep trips and hiking for the teens; a visit to a goat farm for the children (including the chance to prepare their own cheeses), an art workshop with objects from surrounding nature for the grandparents, topped off by a shared, bountiful meal "al ha'esh," [barbeque], the day was rich with sights, tastes, and hands-on experience. Fifteen SELAH trauma professionals, youth guides and volunteers, backed up by security and first aid teams, ensured the care and support of this vulnerable group, out for a day of adventure and connection.
Klara Burlakov with her great - granddaughter Alexander Juk with his grandson
Grandparents raising grandchildren preparing food 13 year old Masha with SELAH counselors
Chanukah Support trip for Siblings Raising Siblings: December 13, 2009
Each family came with their pain, as well as their struggle to build a new life. Among them: Aliza A., 23, and her two younger sisters, ages 8 and 12, whose mother and father died in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Aliza is studying science in a university preparatory program and hopes to become a chemist. Germau, 18, came with his four younger orphaned siblings, ranging in age from 8 to 14. Their mother was brutally murdered in her ninth month of pregnancy. The children all live in the home of a married older sister, who has children of her own to care for.
The Chanukah trip culminated in a Chanukah party at the Maccabim home of Micha Feldmann, director of SELAH’s Ethiopian Program, where they were joined by the chief rabbi of nearby Modi'in, Rabbi David Lau, who blessed all the children. On this second night of the holiday, in the place where the festival of Chanukah originated, each family was given their own chanukiya, and in the room filled with the light of many candles, they ended their day in song together.
Rabbi David Lau and from the right: Yasmine,
In the foreground from the left Lemlem, Zenash, and Mintemer
Left picture: Danny Nattler with Mantagbosh
Micha Feldman with Esther and Hadas Sanayit Tadesse Merav Zohari hugging Sanayit and Melesse
SELAH Healing Retreat for Bereaved Families from the Former Soviet Union
Kibbutz Nachsholim, June 26-27, 2009
Each family had received critical emotional and practical support at the time of their tragedy. At the retreat, they joined peer support groups (one for bereaved parents, the other for widows and widowers) led by trauma professionals, designed to strengthen the bereaved through expressing and sharing pain and together developing tools for coping with loss.
While the children participated in separate activities led by experienced youth guides, the adults toured nearby Caesaria and the Tel Dor antiquities, enjoyed an evening song performance in Russian, and also had the chance to swim and relax with healing treatments of their choice. For many, it was the first time they had traveled in Israel outside their home town.
Left: Limor (r), SELAH's retreat coordinator, on hike with Frima S., whose son Alex was killed in battle during the second Lebanon War.
Right: Pinchas Chanoch (r), SELAH volunteer, with Victoria, K., and daughter Nicole. Victoria's husband died suddenly of a heart attack two weeks before Operation Cast Lead.
Left: Christina L. with son Zachar, 4. Christina's husband died suddenly in September 2008.
Right: Bereaved immigrants visit Tel Dor antiquities during SELAH healing retreat: From right: Almaz R., a single mother of two children now also raising her late sister's two children; Dr. Alexander A., whose son Grigory, a reserve soldier, was killed in a rocket attack during the Second Lebanon War; Lydia S., whose son Pavel was killed in a Hamas attack on an IDF tank in June 2006; Oleg (behind Lydia S.) and Tatiana M., whose teenage daughter Katya was killed in September 2007 in a car accident; and Anna T., whose son Yevgeny was killed in battle during the Second Lebanon War.
Left: SELAH social worker Orian with Maya G., whose mother died when she was one month old. She is being raised by her father and her grandparents.
Right: Volunteer from Toronto Jessica with Michael M., whose father was killed in a work accident.
Paulina G. (r), whose husband Shimon was killed in the Second Lebanon War, and Ludmilla M., who lost her son Alexander in Operation Cast Lead.
Retreat for Survivors of Rocket Attacks,
Kibbutz Ginossar, May 15-16, 2009
Left picture: Genady Gonsky, a widower, previously disabled from a foot amputation, was wounded in the other leg when a rocket hit his apartment in Ashdod in January 2009. His life was saved by a neighbor who applied a tourniquet to his leg. Just three weeks later, Genady's only son died of cardiac arrest.
Right picture: Yossi and Maria Haimov, then and now: (1) just after Yossi was seriously wounded by in a rocket attack in February 2008, and (2) at SELAH retreat May 2009. He is slowly beginning
SELAH cares for 25 Russian visitors wounded
in fatal bus crash near Eilat
December 16, 2008…A bus filled with Russian travel agents from St. Petersburg crashed near Eilat, killing 24 and wounding 25, some critically.
The wounded were rushed to hospitals for emergency treatment, and from these first moments, SELAH's Russian-speaking volunteers and social workers were by their side offering comfort and practical help. The most seriously injured are still recovering in rehabilitation centers in Israel and SELAH remains with them.
Immediately after the crash, SELAH’s emergency teams mobilized to come to the aid of the injured Russian visitors, who had been in the country for less than an hour when their bus crashed.
SELAH teams fanned out to all the hospitals throughout Israel where the survivors were sent for treatment. Our Russian-speaking trauma professionals and trained volunteers were by their bedsides, to comfort them and provide for essential first needs, including helping them contact their families back in Russia, desperately awaiting news.
When these relatives arrived in Israel, SELAH met them at the airport and accompanied them to the hospital.
Each survivor had their own personal tragedy: One injured woman had lost her best friend. Another had suffered many losses in her life and was left alone. Yet another had to cope with every parent’s nightmare: her 28-year-old daughter was been killed in the crash. SELAH was with her husband when the news was finally broken to her in the hospital trauma unit, where she had lain unconscious for days.
February 24, 2009: Recovering Russian bus crash survivors visit Jerusalem
Recovering crash survivors visit Jerusalem with SELAH
"It's like coming out into the free world!"
The excitement of the wounded visitors at coming to Jerusalem was tremendous, especially when they visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall. The rabbi of the Wall told them how he had been in contact with the rabbi of St. Petersburg, where the travelers came from, and that the people of both cities were praying for their recovery.
Luba S., who suffered severe head injuries and whose son and husband were killed in two separate car accidents in Russia, said, "I feel so many things, appreciation and gratitude, most of all, for the humanity you invest in people. The rehabilitation center is a good place, but today, it's like coming out into the free world!
Vladislav D., 30, who suffered many broken bones, a crack in his spinal column and a head wound, is already planning for the future: "This is not my last time in Israel. As soon as my health permits, I am coming back."
SELAH update… Some of the wounded were able to return to Russia soon after the daytrip. Others are staying on in Israel for continuing treatment, and SELAH remains with them.
Daytrip for Grandparents and Grandchildren
in Ben-Shemen Forest
From misery to joy,
"Identifiying familiar Faces…"