The IAF Casualty & Loss Unit has been based and operating from within the IAF Center since 2004, a year after the IAF Center’s inauguration. The historic determination to locate this military unit at the IAF Center recognized that the Center is the most appropriate and suitable facility for the officers and soldiers to provide services to the IAF Bereaved families, injured and former POWs and their families.
Working in close partnership and cooperation with the Casualty & Loss Unit enabled the IAF Center to offer the IAF Bereaved families a diverse roster of recreational programming. Today, the IAF Center provides social, cultural and educational activities that strengthen the spirits of the bereaved and injured as well as provide the IAF and the families many opportunities to create and maintain close and life-long relations.
By law, the State of Israel provides social and financial support to bereaved families, injured and former POW’s. However, financial support and assistance in administrative issues resulting from the loss of injury, doesn’t replace the counseling needed following such a trauma. This is where the IAF Center comes in,
Over the years, studies in Israel have shown that members of bereaved families and extended family of injured soldiers and former POWs are vulnerable to the possibility of social isolation which causes additional emotional trauma. This trauma can manifest in poor school performance, excessive arguing between parents and children, truancy, drug abuse, or depression.
In an effort to afford the families the support and the feeling that they are not alone with their loss, and to share experiences with others and reduce stress, the IAF Center, in partnership with the Casualty & Loss Unit, have created unique programs to answer these personal needs and prepare family members to re-enter society. The main programs include:
• Annual Widows & Orphans Spring Retreat (a week before Passover)
• Annual Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebration
• Annual Hanukkah Event (see details, below)
The main objective of these social events is to create a mutual support system and to connect the bereaved families to others who can relate to their experience. As a result, support networks organically develop where feelings are affirmed, problem-solving techniques are offered, and happy memories of whose who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation are shared.
Annual Hanukkah Event
Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of faith and courage. When the Maccabees rose to fight the Greek pagans who desecrated theHolyTempleinJerusalemand reclaimed theTemple, they found a small jar of olive oil which lit the Menorah for eight days. That was the miracle which gave hope and reassured the Jews of their faith and protection of the Almighty. Since then we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days to symbolize the miracle and its meaning. It was more than fitting to choose Hanukkah as the occasion to invite the bereaved families to theIAFCenterand celebrate the triumph of the spirit and the will to live.
The event has grown from 600 participants in 2005 to 1,400 participants in 2011 (in 2 connected events on the same day). The annual Hanukkah event is celebrated with a reception at theIAFCenter, a Menorah lighting, and a show at the Hall for the Performing Arts. The lighting of the Hanukkah candles is always done with the IAF Chief Rabbi, together with IAF Orphans, and the main hosts at the events are the IAF Commander and the IAF Head of Personnel Department. Addressing the families last year the IAF Head of Personnel said: “I am happy to take part in this event on the last day of Hanukkah, for me this is the light that shines on the people present here today and on our entire nation. I hope that we will be able to add this light to our lives.”
Help us continue this outstanding tradition and its ever-expanding popularity by making a gift of $55,000 annually. Contributors will be recognized on all event publications, at the event, and on a plaque at the Wall of Honor located at the entrance to theIAFCenter.
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