In honor of International Women’s Day, five women who have been impacted by terror and war in Israel, share how they were able to stand on their feet again, and how they are using female empowerment to make a difference in the lives of others.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we chose to give a voice women living in a difficult reality, carrying with them their bereavement or injury’s every day for the rest of their lives. Five inspirational women give a special meaning to International Women’s Day. It is eye-opening to hear from these women and to try to understand a little bit, what they are dealing with, their daily hardships and anguish, how they manage to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and what makes them get up in the morning. OneFamily founder and director Chantal Belzberg shared “I see how they are trying to continue, despite the difficulty. I have seen women in very difficult situations, who don’t allow themselves deteriorate, women who want to do everything possible in order to continue to live. The past year has been very difficult for the ordinary person, imagine how much more difficult this year was for these women, with social distancing, isolation and sick loved ones. I learn from them all the time and they instill in me strength. I am in awe of these women, after the tragedies they have gone through they still aspire to live, bring life and heal. Each and every one of them deserves a medal.”
“A Yoga Mat that Does Not Crumble”
Miri Greenstein Kazakov from Pardes Hanna, was 29 years old, when she her husband Michael (Misha) was murdered on the Egyptian border in 2003. She recalls the knocks on the door that were immediately followed by the horrific news, her beloved husband will not return home from reserve duty. During the time that she became a part of OneFamily, she had just begun her career as a yoga instructor. “They gave me a sense that I was the most wanted and accepted, that I was part of them and that I and my abilities had a place with them. They helped me put together a Yoga group, that quickly grew to 35 women. We have been doing yoga together for over a decade.” A few years after she was widowed, Miri met her second husband, moved to Pardes Hanna and had two more children. OneFamily remained by her side and did not forget her for a moment. “I called the organization and together, we opened groups up in the North that have been meeting non-stop. This past year, throughout the Pandemic, we continued to meet, either on Zoom or according to the Health Ministry’s regulations.
“Over the years, I have remained very close with my first husband’s family. I invited my mother in law to classes, to meet other bereaved mothers. After many years of begging for her to join me, she finally agreed. A little while back, I asked her what she wanted for her 70th birthday, she replied ‘I want a good yoga mat, one that doesn’t crumble’. I share this message with all my students to let them know it is possible to start at any age”.
Is there a message you would like to convey for International Women’s Day?
“With all the dark things that have occurred during our lives, inside everyone there is light. You have to search within yourself to find the inner light. That inner light will always lead the way. The pain is always there, but you can overcome.”
“Cry for a Week and then Rejoice”
Irit Eliraz from Mevaseret Zion will never forget the moment her beloved son Roi was killed. “He was discharged from the army three months before the horrific day. Roi, had found a job working as a security guard. “I hated his job, especially since it was such a dangerous time period of the Intafada. Each and every day we would hear about terrorist attacks.”
When she heard about the attack on Bus #14 on June 2003, her stomach was full of distress. “I felt that I had lost my child. I went into a frenzy, I left the house without checking how I was dressed, I told Meir, my husband, that they were going to look for Roi no matter what situation he was in.” It’s difficult to describe in words that day for Irit, until she reached Abu Kabir and had to identify her son. “When we left, I whispered in my husband’s ear that we should have another child, otherwise I would not be able to continue living.” And that’s what gave Irit strength. She began a series of treatments that lasted several years and at the age of 46 gave birth to twins Uri and Liraz. Watching the twins grow proved the power of life, along with the sadness that accompanies it. “We would come to Roi’s memorials and two small children were running and laughing around the grave, playing hide and seek. That’s exactly the point, the pain and the joy are always with us in life and in any situation. There is no other way.” Another powerful force that lifted Irit and her family on their feet was OneFamily. There is excitement in her voice when she talks about the family coordinator to the Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria area. “When she arrived she shared with us the organization’s activities, through which we met more and more families who lost their loved ones due to terror. This exposure gave us a sense that we are not alone but a large human mosaic family experiencing tragedy, a family that is bound together and gives strength to one another.”
Is there a message you would like to convey for International Women’s Day?
“Remember to always smile and the world will smile back at you. This is the message Roi left us and we live by it. I also want to share that every woman knows her intuitions, what is right for her to do, how to move forward, in what way and at what pace. For those that it is correct to bring another child, don’t hesitate in any way.
“Try to Respect Everyone.”
Eden Dadon was just a 15-year-old girl, when her life was turned upside down. In 2016, she went shopping with her mother, they rode the bus for one stop when a suicide bomber detonated himself on the bus. Eden, who was sitting not far from him, suffered from 3rd degree burns on her face, hands and feet. She spent an entire month in the intensive care unit, until she was moved to the surgical ward. Eden, a young, carefree girl, was now fighting to be able to breathe normally and walk again. While fighting for her life in intensive care, a coordinator from OneFamily contacted Eden’s family. “I remember waking up, I was only visited by family members, I still did not understand what really changed in my life. Then she came into the room, approached me and said, ‘Hey, I’m from OneFamily, from now on you will have a hard time getting rid of me. I’m your new aunt,” Eden recalls. “She also brought me a new tablet to help me with me motor skills. Since then they have accompanied me throughout everything I have been through, not giving up on me. They use every opportunity to show me how important I am to them, both physically and mentally. Once it was a trip to a B&B, a different time a trip to New York, or a new computer.”
“Do you have a personal message to convey?
“I remember on Purim people saw my fingers, they thought it was a costume, so they asked me if it was part of a costume. And I said, no, it’s not a costume, it’s my hands and that’s how I look since the injury. Do not ask. Sometimes people stare at me. So I just stare back at them. Sometimes you see someone who looks different from you, you do not know what lays behind it – try to respect them.”
I wanted to Bring more Life into the World
Inbar Azarek and her husband Uri, a young and happy couple, parents of three young children, decided to finally take a short vacation in Jerusalem. “We were standing at a traffic light near the Benzoin interchange on August 3, 2015, suddenly three terrorists emerged from behind a truck and threw three Molotov cocktails at us. Thank God, my husband survived unscathed. I was burned from my feet to my pelvis. At that moment I realized something horrible was happening to me . I knew I didn’t have the option to wait to be rescued, so I grabbed the burning doorknob and opened it. I rolled myself out and rolled on the asphalt. I was injured on August 3, I remember thinking that by September 1, I will be back on my feet and return to my job as a teacher. I never imagined that five years later, I would still not be in a normal position. I never thought that my life would change so drastically.” OneFamily visited Inbar before she even opened her eyes after the attack. First with her parents, and then her husband, and later with Inabr. “For me, OneFamily is a huge light that is hard to describe in words. Both my husband and I are shy, we did not ask for help, I would not ask either. The coordinator did not give a chance to say no, she just showed up and has since been present in every situation and every matter and lifted us all to another place. One day I asked her, how come you do not forget me? And she replied, ‘We do not forget you – we think of you before you think of you.’ “A year after the injury, Inbar gave birth to her fourth child and since then she has given birth to her fifth. “I knew that we have no control over tragedy, bereavement and pain, but we have control over life, and what we do with it, and I wanted to bring more life into the world and continue to do good for myself and my family. “
Do you have a personal message to convey?
“You don’t have to be injured in a terrorist attack to live a good life, take advantage of every moment. Not because something bad will happen, God forbid, but because you have to live your best life.
“A Solid Cliff that Held me”
At the age of 22, Hagit married Roy Arbel. They lived in Talmon and did what everyone else around them did, start a family, and go to work. Everything was normal and routine. By the age of 23 Hagit gave birth to their eldest daughter, at the age of 25 she had their second child and by the age of 28, she was two and a half months after the birth of triplets, two daughters and a son. The girls were born premature but healthy, the son, who was born with a gastrointestinal defect, was hospitalized. “On January 13, 2005, Roy called to tell me he was waiting for a ride at Shilat Junction, so I knew he would be back soon. He got on a ride with someone who lives in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, I decided to shower the girls. A friend came in and said there was a terrorist attack. I said that Roy must have gone to help them.” There were four people in the car. When the terrorists opened fire at the vehicle, Roy was hit by a bullet in the head and killed instantly. When Hagit’s friend returned for the second time, she understood. Within a moment the house was filled with people. Dizzy from the new reality that was thrown on her without warning, Hagit did not allow anyone to take the girls out of the shower. “I’ll take them out, I’ll take care of them, I tell the girls we are left alone. I did not let emotion play a role there and the denial was obvious.”
“After Roy was killed, I was in complete denial. When OneFamily came to us, I did not want to hear much. I felt that not every widow from terror is the same, I did not want a relationship with others. I had too many hats to hold: a widow, a disabled child, a divorcee later on. But OneFamily did not give up on me. They continued to be there even when I did not agree to cooperate. When my daughter or reached the age of 8, she started going to the camps they organized. She came back and it felt like a dream. Suddenly, I started looking at all their activities and realized what was really going on at OneFamily. I met amazing staff members who really cared. They didn’t pretend, they really wanted the kids to feel freedom and a breath of fresh air, they wanted to give them a sense that they are cared for and accepted. When I was going through a divorce in my second marriage, I was ashamed, felt great fear, I did not know who to turn to. A OneFamily coordinator just stood there like a solid cliff holding me.”
Do you have a personal message to convey?
“I have two messages that are important for me to convey: The first: After trauma, know that something new can always be created. True, my children don’t have a father, I don’t have the man I loved, but since the tragedy, forces from within me have come out that I was not aware of. My relationship with Gd was strengthened. In any trauma, there is sure to be something you have been rewarded for as well. There is dark humor that says: when a man dies – a widow remains, when a woman dies – there is a potential groom. At first I was very angry with friends, I wanted to be set up. But what I am saying is that if you are entering a second relationship, do so only from a whole place within yourself, with your environment, with your family, when you feel there is no anger. If you are not in a place of wholeness with everyone and everything around you, do not enter into a relationship, because it is not from the right place. “