100 women rescued from Arab villages by Yad L’Achim together with their children participated in an uplifting communal Shabbos aimed at helping them bond with one another.
The theme of the Shabbos – held at the beautifully appointed campus at Cherev L’Eit in central Israel – was Teshuvah, as preparation for the new year.
The survivors and their children arrived on chartered buses from around the country.
On Friday afternoon, the women participated in a moving hafrashas challah ceremony. A number of the survivors related in voices shaking with emotion that this was the first time they had merited to participate in the mitzvah. The actual hafrashas challah was performed by Miriam, a mother of three who left her Arab husband a month ago. The women all blessed her and davened together with her.
The survivors, all rescued in the past year, were astounded to meet other women who were coping with the very same challenges that confronted them. Over the course of Shabbos, new friendships were formed, as the women held long, heartfelt talks that strengthened them.
The Shabbos programming blended hands-on classes on basic daily halachos, like a workshop on brachos, alongside talks on philosophy and faith. The Shabbos meals were five-star affairs, mixed with inspiring words of Torah and soulful songs that opened hearts and left participants feeling uplifted.
While the women enjoyed stimulating classes and workshops, their children participated in fun-filled events led by a staff of counselors. The goal was twofold: to give the children an unforgettable experience and to allow the mothers to focus on their programs in the knowledge that their children were in good hands.
A particularly powerful moment came at the height of the prayers held with the children, with the mothers looking on from the side. At one point, the children put their hands on their eyes and cried out in booming, innocent voices: Shema Yisrael, bringing their mothers to tears.
Over Shabbos, Rebbetzin Orit Salomon appeared before the women, as did the singer Ilana Adeni, while Hadas Avitan performed for the children.
In the aftermath of the Shabbos, the social workers at Yad L’Achim have been inundated with calls and messages from survivors expressing what the experience meant to them.
“My wonderful family,” wrote one survivor, “In your merit I formed a new set of relationships.”
Another wrote: “I completely identified with the staff, with all that I’ve experienced and continue to go through.”
And a third added: “The Shabbos for me was an opportunity to unload a burden and leave with an empty, renewed suitcase.”
Many of the survivors noted the timing of the Shabbos, coming on the eve of a new year. “It was the best possible preparation for the new year,” they said.
An official at Yad L’Achim commented: “It was breathtakingly moving to witness the renewed connection between the children and Am Yisrael, during the magnificent Shabbos they experienced. You could feel the message of Netzach Yisrael lo Yeshaker and to what extent it is forbidden to give up on any Jew.”