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Bereaved US, Israeli Families Share a Loss that Bridges Cultures

Share a Loss that Bridges Cultures

According to Nava Shoham, chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, loss is a shared experience, whether for Israelis or Americans, which naturally leads to cross-cultural and cross-boundary bonds that are forged when one loses a loved one in service to the country:

The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization (IDFWO), a nonprofit founded in 1991, is the sole organization recognized by Israel representing the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers. The organization works to protect the rights of, and to provide support and welfare activities for, IDF widows and orphans. …

Through numerous programs providing support for widows and orphans, the organization aims to “bring back the smiles” to both the mothers and the children who have experienced loss.

One of the highlights of the organization’s activities is the OTZMA camp program. Since 2011, every year for Hanukka, Passover, and Succot, hundreds of children from all over the country who have lost a parent in the IDF get together to participate in fun-filled activities and to celebrate the holidays together. …

In addition, OTZMA runs a summer camp program in the US, which, in cooperation with [the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in the United States], brings Israeli orphans for a tour of the US and introduces them to American counterparts.

“Two years ago we brought bar and bat mitzva children to Washington, D.C., and there they met with orphans from the US,” explained Shoham.

“They spent a few days together, and even though there was a language gap, the children were able to develop a shared dialogue through special activities,” she said.

According to the IDFWO head, forging bonds with American children who have experienced similar loss is an important and worthy cause.

“It shows the children that not only does Israel fight for its independence, and not only in Israel are there orphans, but that there are other children who have to deal with the loss, too,” she said. …

“The international community understanding of loss and grief, and especially with Israel being such an ally to the US, is a priority for us,” said Linda Davis, executive vice president of TAPS.

“I think it is very important for us not only to support one another on the battlefield, but it is always important for us to know that we will be supporting each other if there is a loss or a death, and that we will never leave the family behind,” she said.

Tags: US-Israel Relations , IDF

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