update deskIsrael at War

IDF officers who notify families of the fallen receive respite

“These officers need therapy; they need a safe space to simply be able to discuss it, to talk through what they are each going through, and to know how to deal with it," said OneFamily's Batya Wineberg.

The OneFamily organization hosts a unique day retreat for 25 of the most senior officers of the “IDF Casualty Center,” Jan. 21, 2024. Credit: OneFamily.
The OneFamily organization hosts a unique day retreat for 25 of the most senior officers of the “IDF Casualty Center,” Jan. 21, 2024. Credit: OneFamily.

The OneFamily organization on Sunday hosted a unique day retreat for 25 of the most senior officers of the “IDF Casualty Center,” providing a short respite and critical support for soldiers with one of the most difficult jobs in the army.

The IDF Casualties Center is a unique division of 1,800 people tasked with notifying the families of fallen soldiers. The unit was founded in 1948 but only became active two years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which claimed the lives of thousands of Israelis. They are tasked with notifying families, then remaining in groups of three with each bereaved family for the funeral and week of shiva.

Alona Saloman is the officer in charge of IDF Casualties Center headquarters and also a longstanding supporter and general committee member of OneFamily.

“I’ve known for a long time that OneFamily has a lot of wisdom and experience and helping those in extreme grief, encountering families shattered by terror and death and speaking to them in their hardest moments. This was a way of sharing that wisdom with the officers of the IDF who have taken on this incredibly challenging task,” she said. 

“The hardest part for these officers is having to absorb the anger and pain expressed by the mourners,” she continued, adding: “Sometimes they come to families who slam the door and won’t let them into the house. While everyone can understand their difficult feelings, it is these officers who have to absorb everything and be with the families for seven days.” 

The OneFamily organization hosts a unique day retreat for 25 of the most senior officers of the “IDF Casualty Center,” Jan. 21, 2024. Credit: OneFamily.

During the Sunday event, soldiers gathered as a team to strengthen each other, receive counseling and support from social workers and unwind. The day, spent in a luxurious private home, included workshops, important sessions with professionals, an elaborate lunch and opportunities for yoga/exercise. 

The event was organized by Batya Wineberg, OneFamily’s Northern Region Coordinator. “These officers need therapy; they need a safe space to simply be able to discuss it, to talk through what they are each going through, and to know how to deal with it,” she said.  

“The timing of the retreat was almost eerie,” she continued. “The members of the Casualty Team have had no rest since Oct. 7. Who could have possibly known when they paused to get much-needed support themselves, that overnight they would need to contact [two dozen] families—and counting—in response to yesterday’s horrible death toll.” 

Twenty-four IDF troops were killed in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, marked the deadliest day for Israeli forces in Gaza since the start of the IDF ground operation there on Oct. 27.

OneFamily, whose mission is to provide every type of support necessary to victims of terror and their families, has been inundated by thousands of bereaved, orphaned, wounded and more since Oct. 7.

“We are a small country, and everyone knows someone suffering a tragic loss,” Wineberg explained. “This is so personal for everyone, and it has taken a tremendous toll on these officers.” 

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