Home News Canada Israelis kids affected by terror enjoy life at a Canadian summer camp

Israelis kids affected by terror enjoy life at a Canadian summer camp

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Campers and staff from One Family and Camp Timberlane pose for a photo. (Courtesy of One Family/Camp Timberlane)

For the 13th consecutive summer, Camp Timberlane in Haliburton, Ont., hosted Israeli campers who are part of the One Family Fund, an organization that provides services for Israelis who have lost family members to terror attacks, or were affected by terror in other ways.

One Family was started in 2001, when Michal Belzberg decided to cancel her bat mitzvah celebrations after the Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem that left 15 people dead and 130 injured.

She asked for people to donate money to help the victims of the attack, instead of giving her gifts. She and her family then created the One Family Fund to help all Israeli victims of terror, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian. Today, One Family has helped over 12,000 people.

In 2006, One Family partnered with Camp Timberlane for the first time, sending a few campers over, as a sort of pilot project. Today, around 30 Israeli kids attend the camp each year, along with Israeli staff who are also members of One Family.

READ: JEWISH AND ARAB YOUTH FIND COMMON GROUND AT CANADIAN SUMMER CAMP

One Family is so therapeutic for its members because it allows them to be themselves, says Lihi Ben Ari, a camper who returned to Timberlane for her second year. Ben Ari’s father was killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv. She was out for dinner with him, her stepmother and her brother, when terrorists shot up the restaurant.

When she’s in a group with other people who have experienced the same kind of loss, it allows her to be herself.

“When you live in (a) house where someone was killed, everything is sad all the time, everyone is crying and you don’t know what people expect you to do – to cry, or smile,” she said. “With One Family, you can laugh whenever you want to, you can cry whenever you want to. And everyone will be there for you no matter what.”

Yuval Aizenman, whose sister was killed in a terror attack before he was born, is attending Camp Timberlane for the first time, after his older brother recommended it. He agrees with Ben Ari’s assessment of why One Family is so potent.

Campers and counsellors from One Family attend Camp Timberlane in Haliburton, Ont. (Courtesy of One Family/Camp Timberlane)

“It felt good because you know that you are not changed. In school, I know that I’m the only one that his sister, or someone in his family, was murdered. Here, all are the same, we are not changed anymore. We are like each other and that’s what connects us,” he said in an interview the day before going to Camp Timberlane for the first time.

Aizenman was excited to attend, not just because his older brother and other friends from One Family said they loved it, but because of what he had learned about Canadian campers. Aizenman and the other Israeli campers stayed in Toronto with host families for a few days before going to the camp. They saw Niagara Falls, downtown Toronto and Canada’s Wonderland. They also learned that members of the host families attended camp as children.

“They told me that they are going from 10 to age 17, OK? This is eight years that they go to Timberlane, so I can’t imagine how much fun they are having,” he said.

Daniel Salim has experienced that fun firsthand, as both a camper and a counsellor. She attended Timberlane for the first time as a camper in 2007, after her brother was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War. Last year, she was asked to return as a counsellor and did the same this year.

“I remember that I cried on the last day. I didn’t want to leave,” she said. “Every day we wake up with a big smile on our face and we don’t want to go to sleep because we don’t want to miss a day. Like if we go to sleep, it’s going to be tomorrow and it’s one day less.”