Hanging out at Camp Koby and Yosef
Photo: Roi Idan

Unique camp for terror victims' relatives brings fun to kids' summer

Hundreds of children from across country who have lost loved ones in terror attacks attend camp established just for their needs. Most of camp's activities focus on having fun instead of on bereavement, but some kids experience significant breakthrough in dealing with loss

"We want this summer camp to be as fun as possible. It is very difficult for a family that has lost someone to have fun," explains the president of the Koby Mandell Foundation about the camp currently in session in the southern city of Dimona for dozens of children and youths from families affected by terrorism.


Camp Koby and Yosef was established by the Koby Mandell Foundation, named in memory of Koby and his friend Yosef Ishran who were murdered in May 2001 in a terrorist ambush while hiking near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Koby's parents, Rabbi Seth and Sherri, set up the fund in hopes of easing the pain of losing their son.


At their summer camp, they said, loss is not spoken about on a constant basis.


"We don't talk about it. It doesn't occupy us," agrees D., 15, whose parents were murdered when he was nine years old in a shooting attack. He is currently partaking of the various activities the camp has to offer, such as games, swimming, and sports, in order to take a break from the bereavement.


Children open up

"The counselors here provide everything. They come to volunteer. They're like friends, not above us. I come here just for the fun," explains D. When asked what he would advise other children who have experienced loss like him, he responds with a smile, "You need to talk about the problems, not to keep them in, and to try to be happy."


Some 500 children from across the country are attending the camp this summer. The first session was for religious girls. The current session is for religious boys. The third session, which will start in another week, will be for secular boys and girls together. Their families are not asked pay for the camp, which is funded entirely by donations.

Seeking respite from bereavement. Playing foosball. (Photo: Roi Idan)


This summer, the camp is taking place at a hostel in Dimona.


"Some children experience a real breakthrough during the camp session," said Seth Mandell about the therapeutic activities in which the children take part. "After therapy with the counselors, they sometimes say something they have never told anyone."


"I remember there was one boy who say on one of the counselor's lap and started to play with her hair. He said, 'Your hair is like my mom's. I miss her a lot.' The children don't usually say things like that. They don't want to be thought of as pitiable. In this atmosphere, at camp, they learn that it actually is acceptable to talk about," adds Mandell.


'Good people here'

Koby's brother, who was only five when he lost his brother, attends the camp. "He can talk to the counselor for hours about these things. It really is like the best older brother," says his father.


Among the counselors is one of Koby's best friends, Tamir Reichman. "The goal is not to preserve what Koby was, but what he left after him. He is my first friend to be killed. I remember Koby once said in school that nothing happens to someone who dies, but that those who are left behind need to deal with the loss," says Reichman.


A camper named Yochai, whose father was murdered in a shooting attack, says the camp "gives strength."


"It helps, and it's fun. If you need something, you talk. There are good people here. If I'm having a hard time, the counselors always help. They are good friends. Everyone comes from the same background, and we are the same kind of people," says Yochai.


Yochai advises other children who have lost love ones: "You must keep your head up and never give up. If it's hard, you can ask for help. There is no shame in that."


פרסום ראשון: 07.15.09, 09:40
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