I joined in a desert hike for a couple of days with OneFamily Together, an organization that helps survivors of Palestinian terrorism and also those bereaved by it.
The chap in the wheelchair is Peter Eckstein. Peter was very involved in the organization and lots of other Zionist things. Last year, while out jogging, he got run over by a truck. He sustained a broken back, broken neck and was paralyzed. Doctors said he would never walk again. Peter not only managed to walk within a year, he hiked through desert terrain. When it got a bit tough… no need to panic. There is always a Jew or two around in the desert hiding behind an acacia tree to come up with a solution. The para wheelchair was invented by a young Israeli called Omer Zur. Omer could have spent his brains designing useless games for smartphones but he wanted to help others instead.
The picture of the young man in a black shirt is Aharon Karuv. In December 2008 Aharon got married. That very night he was called up to do his duty for his country. Aharon had to go into houses in Gaza to search for Hamas terrorists who were shelling rockets on Israeli civilians. In one of the houses, there was a booby trap. 500 pieces of shrapnel penetrated his body and some of Aharon’s skull was blown away. He laughed when I told him it was nothing, it was just a “man cold.” An amazing man is Aharon. Many surgeries later he even ran the New York marathon for victims of terror.
Shmuel Yurfest is the chap with the glasses. Shmuel was a vascular surgeon until a bomb in his hometown nearly killed him. He was rushed to the hospital where he worked and was in such a terrible state that even his own staff did not recognize him. Shmuel was permanently blinded. Not to worry. Knowing that he can never again work as a surgeon, he decided to become a psychiatrist.
Fatma Qadan is a Muslim lady whose husband was murdered by Palestinian terrorists who set off a bomb in the city of Hadera. 5 years later her son died of cancer. Next to her is Mazal Naaman, a Jewish lady whose son was shot dead by terrorists. Palestinian terror impacts all of Israel’s citizens. With the Muslim and Jewish lady is Matthew Shoychet. Matthew has devoted his life to helping others by filming stories of survivors of terrorism and doing documentaries about antisemitism.
The rather obscure picture is of me being suffocated by Nissan Ohana. Nissan who is disabled, mostly blind and has social issues, suffered the loss of his sister in a bus bomb. He felt very isolated and alone. OneFamily Together sent him to a summer camp in Canada with other kids who are bereaved. Nissan learned to find help, share his story and decided to invest his life in becoming an accomplished musician to help himself and others. I love this hug. Considering just a few years ago he was nervous about touch, it shows how far he has come.
The group picture is of the 80 Canadians, Americans, and Brits, who gave up their time, hiked Israel for 5 days and raised sponsorship for the survivors and families of the victims. We were joined by young Israelis who are doing a pre-army course. They too gave of their time and helped and carried those not able to walk across mountains and through ravines. The whole project was spearheaded by the magnificent Gary Tile. Gary used to be a businessman. He gave up all that to help others. It’s hard to find a happier man than Gary.
I love these pictures of hope. Hope must be shared. So I am tagging British baroness, anti-Semite Jenny Tonge and Martina Anderson MEP, a member of the European parliament and former convicted terrorist. Both shamefully accuse Israel of being an apartheid state and both excuse and justify Palestinian terrorism. Maybe they can learn from Israeli survivors that shackling Palestinians in perpetual (and false) victimhood, is not kind, helpful, moral or true. I want them to meditate on these victorious Israeli happy faces. I want them to see that our wounded and bereaved have not only survived, they have also thrived – just like Israel itself.
And Israel will continue to survive and thrive, because individually and collectively, Israel and the Jewish people have a purpose and a perspective that looks outward, not inwards, and way beyond ourselves.