‘FOR THE BROTHERS,’ – OVERCOMING BEREAVEMENT, CONNECTING TO THE LAND

Thirty-six bereaved brothers joined Eyal Ben-Melech for a two-day jeep trip to the areas of Yokneam, the Carmel Mountains, the lower Galilee and well as Hof Dor.

Travelling the dirt roads, hills and mountains across the country is Eyal Ben-Melech’s way of coping with the loss of his two brothers. Gili, a soldier, was serving near Ramallah when he was killed in 2002. His oldest brother Golan, died in a car accident in 1980.

Gili loved jeeps and when he was 12 Eyal brought him a toy jeep.  He was due to accompany Eyal on a jeep trip, but was killed in combat just days before. For years Eyal was unable to go on a jeep trip, the memories of his brother were too painful for him to bear.

Eyal connected with OnFamily and realized there was a need for older bereaved brothers and sisters to get together and remember their loved ones. Many bore their yearnings and sadness alone unable to talk about their bereavement at home.

The annual “For the Brothers” jeep trip was born.

Each year, Eyal alternates the event, one year for bereaved brothers and the following year for bereaved sisters. The two day trip traditionally starts on Thursday morning and ends shortly before Shabbat on Friday.

Last month, 36 bereaved brothers from OneFamily joined Eyal on a trip to the North – Yokneam, the Carmel Mountains, the lower Galilee and well as Hof Dor.

Preparations began months earlier, and included a meeting with all participants at OneFamily’s headquarters in Jerusalem. Eyal also met with each of the bereaved brothers individually.

The trip starts with Eyal playing the well-known Hebrew song “This Path begins here.” It is transmitted to all the jeeps and Eyal speaking into the microphone tells everyone “the trip starts here. It is a trip for everyone, and you choose who to bring with you on this trip.”

It is a bittersweet feeling he says, the memories of those no longer alive mixed with an elated feeling of moving forward.

Throughout the two days, participants talk of their loved ones, recall memories, cry, hug and comfort each other. They sit around campfires, strum guitars and sing. Spend time alone with their thoughts but gain strength from each other,

On the first day a pack of cards with words written on them is strewn on the ground. Each participant is asked to choose the card with the word that represents his feelings or has a special meaning, something to accompany them on their trip. One of the participants chose a card with the words “to dare,” on it, saying it helps to connect to the other people on the trip and hear their stories. Another chose “yearnings,” saying at home he won’t let his children see him cry and he finds it hard to express his yearnings for his brother.

“What is amazing is to see how bereaved brothers and sisters from all across the country come together, some never met before. As a person who lost two brothers  I see how much strength I gain through my pain. These trips changed my life.”

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