Terri Sugar Keyfitz, Special to The CJN
When my husband and I hosted an injured Israeli hero in our home, we had no idea what to expect. It turned out that we had an immensely rewarding experience and a fabulous time!
Beit Halochem Canada, Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel is an amazing organization that was founded in 1978 and is devoted to helping rehabilitate the more than 50,000 disabled Israeli veterans and victims of terror.
After the injured leave the hospital, they go to state-of-the-art Beit Halochem centres in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Nahariya or Be’er Sheva. These centres boast an array of rehabilitative services including physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, therapeutic devices, specialized sports equipment and training, family-oriented programming, and creative and cultural activities.
Beit Halochem is committed to increasing community awareness and ties to Israel through group visits of disabled Israeli veterans to the Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal Jewish communities. Every June, Beit Halochem Canada hosts a group of 10 veterans for two weeks. Ten families open their homes as hosts, and another 10 are co-hosts to the visitors. The heroes come from all over Israel, are of various ages, had different roles in the Defence Forces and have varying injuries. They are all mobile enough to walk up stairs, get on and off a bus, and their injuries are not readily apparent.
At our very first encounter with our Beit Halochem guests, I was really surprised to see how moved with emotion and appreciation they were.
What I came to understand was that they had not expected strangers in the Diaspora – in a world that seems to them to be entirely against Israel – to really care about Israeli people.
Also, they come from a country where being an injured war veteran is, sadly, not unique, and they were touched to know that we were extremely sympathetic to each and every one of them.
I really enjoyed becoming acquainted with these 10 interesting individuals during the many fun-filled activities and events that are part of the Beit Halochem group visit.
At the parties, we danced and ate and laughed, and then one of the vets would get up and tell his personal story – and we shed many tears.
Some of them had never before been able to speak about their war experiences, but gradually opened up during their stay with us. In this relaxed, pressure-free atmosphere, they blossomed like flowers. It was heartening to see.
They became like family to us. It was quite funny to hear vets of all ages call their hosts and co-hosts “Mom” and “Dad,” whether they were younger or older than us!
What was most special was getting to know our own new “family member” during intimate talks in our kitchen. Our new “son” entered our home, our lives and our hearts.
These Israel Defence Forces men are true heroes. They literally put their lives on the line to protect our beloved Israel. Hosting them is our small way of giving back.
When these heroes spoke of their appreciation to us, we responded that we are the ones to be grateful.
Hosting a disabled Israeli veteran for Beit Halochem was truly an enriching experience.
If a family in the community would like to be a host or a co-host, please contact the Beit Halochem office at 905-695-0611 or beithalochem.ca.