Chanukah is typically a joyous time when Israelis gather with friends and family, especially with siblings and parents. Sadly, dozens of young adults in Israel are no longer able to do that as they join a special group of veterans, OneFamily’s Sayeret, Israel’s sole community for children and young adults who have lost both parents to terror.
The name means “elite” in Hebrew, a reference to its members surviving the most difficult consequences of terrorism. Part of OneFamily’s Orphan Division, Sayeret members have grown to rely on one another over the years to share their strength and experiences.
Amid the current crisis, veterans of OneFamily’s Sayeret group have been actively reaching out to Israelis who lost both parents to the terror of Oct. 7, embracing and comforting those newly orphaned in a way that is only possible for those who have personally experienced a similar tragedy. They were invited to join Sayeret’s annual Chanukah event, which featured a group discussion, giving the newly orphaned a much-needed opportunity to speak freely about their experiences.
Marc Belzberg, chairman of OneFamily Fund, opened the intimate conversation by noting the historic nature of the gathering. Sayeret’s original members joined the group as children, and now, for the first time, they are opening their circle to embrace those most in need of their support. The veteran orphans are likely the only ones in Israel to fully understand the suffering and challenges of those who lost their parents on the first day of the war.
Chanukah candles were lit by Assaf Weiss, who became an orphan as a result of the atrocities on Oct. 7. His family is from Kibbutz Be’eri, which was among the southern Israeli border communities attacked by Hamas. Both of Assaf’s parents were killed that day, and his own house on the kibbutz was destroyed.
Assaf was accompanied by his wife, Tena, and their baby son at the Sayeret event. Tena said: “Parents are home, so we lost two homes. The one that is your house and the one that is the people that make you feel like you are where you belong. We lost both.”
Hila, who has been attending the annual event for 18 years, noted that this year was different and more complex. It wasn’t the annual family-style celebration marked by joy and the sense of an alternative family. Looking beyond the inclusion of new attendees, she noted that “this year doesn’t feel like a simple celebration of Chanukah for any one of us in Israel, no matter what.”
Learn more about OneFamily: https://onefamilyfundus.org/.