Volunteers with the Chabad Terror Victims Project in Israel visit Orel Elazarov, who was wounded in the head by a rocket in Beersheva years ago. They bring Purim packages to individuals and families for the holiday and spend time with them during the long recovery process. (File Photo/CTVP)
Purim is the Jewish holiday that comes with so much hoopla that it’s no wonder why so many individuals and families look forward to it all year long. Between the colorful costumes and brightly packed food gifts, it is a day of pure merriment and joy.
Yet for those who have been personally affect by terror attacks in Israel, the day can be bitter reminder of what they have lost.
Some are dealing with fresh wounds: 34 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and hundreds have been injured in the last six months as part of a spate of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere. For others, the pain has been a long companion.
The Chabad Terror Victims Project notes that more than 3,000 people across the country are in need of comfort over the holiday.
“It is extremely important to visit these families, especially during Purim, when the rest of the country is celebrating, and it’s sometimes difficult for them to celebrate,” says Rabbi Yossi Swerdlov, associate director of CTVP, which provides programming, support and services victims of terror and their families.
However, the sheer magnitude of the number of people they need to reach in just 24 hours makes it impossible for the CTVP staff to do it alone. So they turn to volunteers from Israel and abroad who can spend a few hours on Purim day visiting those who need to see a smiling face and reminder that they are not forgotten.
“We have many volunteers who are ready to help. We have enlisted the help of the local Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries across Israel who are sending volunteers from their community to help,” says Swerdlov. “In addition, as it gets closer to Purim, we expect more people from overseas to enlist as well.”
Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project, gives a welcome Purim package to a soldier at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan visibly glad to see him. From the moment of injury, CTVP is at their bedside in the hospital, during rehabilitation and for as long as needed. (File Photo/CTVP)
‘A Personal Gift’
One of those volunteers will be Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, who serves as the co-director of Chabad of Richmond, BC, Canada, with his wife, Chanah. Baitelman and several of members of his local community will be in Israel for Purim and have volunteered to go visit those who were affected by terror attacks there.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory] requested that the joy of Purim and the mitzvot of Purim be brought to every Jew, especially to people who were in circumstances that impinged on their ability to be joyous on Purim,” explains Baitelman. “There was a strong emphasis from the Rebbe on these efforts in Eretz Yisrael, especially for soldiers and officers in the Israel Defense Forces, as well as the widows and orphans of fallen IDF soldiers. The Rebbe instructed that the misloach manot[gifts of food for friends and neighbors, one of the four mitzvahs of Purim]be given to the soldiers as a personal gift from the Rebbe, which he paid for.
A Purim party thrown by CTVP in a prior year for soldiers and others at Sheba Medical Center. (File Photo/CTVP)
“I believe that bringing the joy of Purim and misloach manot to terror victims is a clear extension of those directives,” he says.
While much of the focus of Purim is on families, they aren’t the only ones who need a little cheer on Purim. Swerdlov notes that CTVP also hosts Purim programs, including readings of Megillat Esther, for wounded members of the Israel Defense Forces at the Rehabilitation Center at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan.
Every person and family that CTVP representatives and volunteers visit on Purim will receive a special mishloach manot package filled with traditional goodies, snacks and more, which is only a small part of what they need on Purim.
Says Swerdlov: “The most important thing is the visit itself, so that the families know that we are with them, and that all of Israel cares about them.”
Kutner and staff want terror victims to know “that all of Israel cares about them.” (File Photo/CTVP)