Learning to Parent without Parents

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For many young families, summertime – and especially school vacation – is a time to rely on supportive parents. But for members of OneFamily’s “Sayaret” division for orphans of both parents, heartbreakingly this is not an option.

“The Sayaret division is made up of orphans whose foundations were stolen from them in a split second due to a terrorist attack and their lives were changed forever,” said Chayuta Rozman, coordinator of the division. “Every step of their life journey, rather than being accompanied with the guidance of their parents, is now accompanied by a huge void.”

The name Sayeret comes from the IDF, where it is the elite division assigned the most difficult tasks. The members of OneFamily’s Sayeret division chose the name because they survived the most difficult consequence of terror – the death of both parents.

To ease the burden on the members of the division, many of whom have their own families and children, OneFamily organized a special three-day retreat in Northern Israel. The timing of the retreat  was chosen to help the families end the summer on a high note and to provide guidance and support as they face the beginning of a new school, Chayuta said.

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Approximately 20 young families enjoyed this three day break from their routine of the summer, to relax and have fun but also to receive instrumental guidance on how to parent without parents. The retreat is part of OneFamily’s ongoing assistance to orphans of both parents, including a support group that has been going strong for nine years and trips to Europe and North America.

Didi Dickstein, whose parents and brother were shot in a 2002 terror attack, said it was a welcome break for his whole family. “Even after 14 years, the pain is still so great. For my children not knowing their grandparents, it makes my heart ache,” he said.

The retreat gave the families a chance to kayak along the Jordan River, swim in natural springs near Afula and hike in the Hazaki River, near Tiberius. The families stayed in a tranquil resort near the Gamla Nature Reserve and enjoyed the beautiful gardens of the hotel which overlook the Sea of Galilee.

More importantly, the families get an opportunity to bond deeply with others who struggle with the same difficulties, which is a vital part of their healing process. OneFamily organizes events throughout the year to help the orphans bond with the people who understand their struggles best.

“Through OneFamily, the families are connected by similar experience in tragic loss,” said participant Bat-Sheva Badan. “We were able to relax and enjoy fun experiences with our own children and understand the challenges we all face as young parents without parents. We feel each other’s pain.”

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Dikla Gavish, whose husband Yeshurun’s parents, older brother and grandfather were murdered in the same attack during Passover in March 2002, said, “I entered the retreat one person and left feeling like another.“

There was also a strong educational element. As parents with school-age children, the group was treated to a workshop a renowned parenting coach and family therapist. His presentation focused on developing communication between spouses in order to create good communication between parents and children. He also encouraged the parents to take their difficult experiences and use these challenging experiences, to grow as individuals and also as parents.

He also drew on his own challenges of bringing up children, with examples the participants were able to relate to. Bat-Sheva expressed deep gratitude to OneFamily for organizing the retreat because it allowed the families to discuss difficult parenting issues, such as how to commemorate the memorial day of their parents and make it appropriate and meaningful for their children who never met their grandparents.  “Only people in the Sayeret division truly understand these types of challenges” she said.

Ultimately, the retreat gave the families a chance to gear up for the challenges of the school year. “All the children are looking forward to learning and starting their new classes,” Chayuta said. “This retreat helped us give them a fun time to recharge their energies.”

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