“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” goes the famous show tune. But that sentiment doesn’t ring so true for many residents of Israel’s southern region who suffered the brunt of Israel’s three wars with Hamas.
So with summer temperatures reaching a peak and children’s vacation feeling endless – for the parents and the children – there couldn’t be a better time for OneFamily’s annual visit to Yamit 2000, one of the biggest and most popular water parks in Israel.
This week, 415 victims of terror and their families spent the day keeping cool by the pool, sliding through thrilling water slides, running through a host of water-based activities for kids, or just relaxing in the shade. It was a day of family fun, a break from routine, and a time to reconnect with old friends in a comfortable and friendly setting.
Most importantly, it was a day to leave behind the daily medley of thoughts and fears that continue to haunt so many who have been hurt by Hamas’s rockets, or live with those who have been injured.
Another Rocket Falls on Sderot
The timing, in fact, turned out to be even better than planned, particularly for residents of Sderot who took part in the visit. Just two days earlier, yet another rocket from the Gaza Strip landed on the town, sending sirens ringing and forcing the residents back into shelters once again.
For those who lived through the many rocket attacks of the past decade, and especially those who suffered injuries from them, the episode brought back so many traumatic memories.
Katy Alyasi, who was injured in a rocket attack in 2014, said everyone in Sderot relives the experience every time they hear the Red Alert siren. “The children were born into trauma,” she said. “Each day, they ask ‘will there be an alarm today?’ as though they are preparing themselves for the possibility of more rockets.
“That’s how it’s been, and that’s how it will be in the future in Sderot.” A day at the water park with OneFamily, she said, takes people out of that cycle and gives them a respite from the stress and fear.
Raymond Zarviv, who was wounded in a rocket attack on Sderot in 2009, said he makes a point of bringing the family for the “fun day” with OneFamily every year. “The children get a break from the tension,” he said.
OneFamily Means Hope and Caring
For many families, particularly large families, a visit to Yamit 2000 is simply impossible both because of the cost and the organization that would be required to bring everyone to Holon for the day.
Sigal Sofer, a mother of seven, said a family outing of this kind was “practically a new mortgage” and was grateful for the respite. “It’s a chance to refresh and not sit at home with my thoughts running through my head,” she said.
In 1995, Sigal was almost killed in a vicious stabbing attack a few weeks after giving birth to her second child. Twenty years later, terrorists threw a firebomb at her near Beit El. Sigal’s three-year-old daughter Tahel was badly burned on her back from the attack.
Sigal said she looked behind her and saw little Tahel in flames. “I’ve been through a stabbing but nothing is worse than seeing your child on fire,” she said.
Two of Sigal’s other children, 10 and 12, were also burned in the attack and Sigal burned her hand trying to put the flames out.
The firebombing, she said, brought back all of the memories of her first brush with terror. But there was a big difference the second time, she said. “This time, we have OneFamily, and now there are people who take notice of us,” she said.
Another mother came with her husband and five children, one of whom was hurt in a rocket attack in 2009 when he was seven years old. The family had spent 23 days in a shelter, and on the day they ventured out, another rocket struck. The family did not have enough time to get back to the shelter.
She said the boy, Aviv, has not recovered emotionally from the attack. He continues feel intense anxiety and has trouble sleeping at night. He cannot be left alone and needs someone with him around the clock.
“Here we can have some inner peace, away from our routine,” she said. “You’re around people sitting and smiling. Not tense at home in front of the TV.