by Eitan Press

OneFamily, Israel’s only national organization dedicated solely to rehabilitation of terror victims and their families, recently hosted a gala opening event for a new art exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Old Railway Station called “Longing for a Hug” (Hebrew: Ga’aguah Le’chibuk), which focuses on the trauma and healing of bereaved Israeli children.

The first of its kind in Israel, the exhibit includes 40 original works of art created by well-known Israeli artists to memorialize the stories of children who lost parents, brothers or sisters as a consequence of war, military operations or terror attacks.  The exhibit is based upon a book by the same name, a project initiated and supported by OneFamily to honor the memories of bereaved children and aid their healing processes.  The book includes 150 stories of loss and longing as told by the children themselves.

“We published the book after two years of diligent work. The children who chose to share their personal stories in the book mentioned repeatedly how important it was to them that others understand their constant pain, their daily struggles,” said Chantal Belzberg, the founder and volunteer CEO of OneFamily.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the Israeli public to be a part of such a unique project, to finally be able to grasp the pain of the bereaved and to heap love and warmth upon these brave children.”

During the opening event, families of the bereaved, including many of the young writers, gathered to celebrate the lives of those lost. Each writer was personally recognized and received a copy of the book, which was released for the first time at the event.

Attendee Alon S., visiting from France, noted that the art exhibit personalized the sense of loss and created empathy in a way that reading about victims of terror in newspapers did not. He commented, “This experience today, its different, I share the pain.”

Omar Keat, who lost his 21 year old son to a roadside bomb, performed at the event with a choir organized by OneFamily, composed of fathers who all lost sons or daughters to terror. “Every father…it’s not easy…our sons can’t sing anymore, we have to keep singing,” said Keat.

Speaking at the event, Israeli Defense Minister Danny Danon cited the solidarity OneFamily creates as an example of what gives Israel strength. Danon commented, “Most importantly we have the ability to be together…the Jewish people know when to come together.” Danon offered confident words the crowd recommending that instead of worrying about the current situation in Syria, the Israeli public should concentrate on the upcoming Jewish new year and whether “there is enough food for Rosh Hashana for the guests.”

Artists participating in the “Longing for a Hug” exhibit – David D’or, Nancy Brandes, JoJo, Elan Siman Tov, and many more – chose stories from the book and depicted the feelings of nostalgia, emptiness, and longing therein through several disciplines, including painting, sculpture, and photography.

Following the event, the exhibit, which was curated voluntarily by multidisciplinary artist Reli Wasser, will be on display at Tel Aviv’s Old Railway Station from August 30 – September 29, 2013.
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For more than 10 years, OneFamily (www.onefamilytogether.org) has cared for the victims of terrorism and their families from the moment of impact until the need for assistance ceases, with services ranging from counseling to support groups to summer camps for kids. Through a unique and personalized combination of legal, financial and emotional assistance, OneFamily helps thousands of traumatized, wounded and bereaved individuals each year.