How IDF Widows & Orphans Organisation Helped Sara Omer & Her Children Rebuild Their Lives
Photos by Kobi Koankas
Like a thunderbolt out of the blue, Sara Omer’s world was nearly destroyed in 2008, when her husband Reuven, who had faithfully returned to his IDF unit for reserve duty, was killed during a training exercise.
As the mother of three young boys, twins, Nadav & Yotam who were six years old and Guy, two years old, when tragedy struck, Sara, the former native of Manchester, England, who had immigrated to Israel in 1990 at age 22, was forced to confront the harrowing daily realities of being an IDF widow.
Despite the harsh realities, Sara, armed with typical British optimism and steely resolve, refused to let her world come apart at the seams.
During the rejuvenation process, the IDFWO entered Sara’s life, providing her and the children with supportive programs and outreach services.
Today, Sara, who works as a private English teacher in Hod Hasharon, along with her teenaged children, are thriving, enjoying life to the fullest.
“To say that the IDFWO have been lifesavers is an understatement. They have helped me and my children to rebuild our lives,” Sara proclaimed “Starting in 2012, when the twins first started going to the IDFWO’s Otzma camps during different parts of the year (holidays and summer), all of us fell in love with the whole organization. The IDFWO’s counsellors encouraged me to send the boys to camp, because they would be able to be with other orphans who had experienced the same trauma in their lives, something that doesn’t go away. But by sharing their feelings with each other, they would become like family.”
Sara also cited the various programs and activities which have allowed her to breathe and flourish. “For me, the annual widows’ retreat is incredibly important because it allows all of us to recharge our emotional and physical batteries for five days,” Sara revealed.
Participants take part in inspiring lectures, workshops and trips by day, and are entertained by professional comedians, performers and singers by night. “It might sound a bit awful, but I actually look forward to putting my kids on the bus to camp before I go away,” Sara claimed. ”I’m sure the other widows feel the same way. However, we all know that we need the break and understand that the kids are also having the most wonderful time as well.”
In fact, Sara and the twins are positively effusive in their praise of the IDFWO’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Trip to North America program, which had a profound impact on everyone’s lives. To celebrate the special milestone in a child’s life the IDFWO provides all the Bar & Bat Mitzvah aged orphans with a memorable three week trip to the United States and Canada; during which, the children enjoy summer camp activities, become friends with American campers their age, tour famous sites, and are hosted by American families.
“Even two years later, the twins haven’t stopped talking about this life-changing adventure. It was the most valuable experiences that they will ever have in their lives,” Sara boasted. “In every place they went in the USA and Canada, they were literally adopted by every community. Nadav and Yotam boys were hosted by individual families who displayed a true outpouring of love towards each child. For the first time, the kids discovered that other Jews all over the world truly care about them in every way, which created an overwhelming feeling of mutual respect and love.”
Yotam Omer added, “Being part of the IDFWO organisation has enabled me to meet and become friends with children of all ages from all over Israel who have suffered the same tragedy as I have. We all understand each other’s pain and support each other. The Otzma camps are so much fun and the staff are incredibly nice and supportive My Bar Mitzvah trip to the USA and Canada was a truly unforgettable experience. For me, the IDFWO is like a second family and I just can’t imagine my life without the organisation.”
Even on Yom Hazikaron, which is the most difficult day on the calendar for IDF widows and orphans, the organisation provides day-long programs for both the widows and the children to channel their emotions in an inspirational manner.
“During the past three years, we have gone to the Knesset for a special Yom Hazikaron ceremony, where the children have gone on stage to sing with well-known Israeli stars and display their emotions in a positive setting,” said Sara. “Yom Hazikaron is the most emotionally painful day of the year for the families of fallen soldiers and these types of programs are so important. It’s just a wonderful feeling to know that the IDFWO is there for me and my kids throughout the year. All of these uplifting programs have played a vital role in allowing me to cope and rebuild my life in a very positive manner.”
For the 8,000 women and children who lost their loved ones in the Israel Defense and security Forces, the IDFWO is their family. The IDFWO is that backbone of support that a parent or spouse generally provides, making a world of difference in the widows’ and orphans’ lives.
Join the IDFWO family and enrich the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for the State of Israel, visit www.idfwo.org/eng, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and like us on Facebook