Israel’s talented and resourceful people are its most significant natural resource therefore each life that is lost in defense of our country is precious and must always be remembered and cherished for generations to come. No less important are the families that they left behind. When a member of the Israel Air Force is required to make the ultimate sacrifice and is killed in service, it is the children and spouse who are left with an endless void and need support from their extended family, the Israel Air Force.
Since 1948 the Israeli Air Force has lost over 1,600 lives in wars, missions and training accidents. During the second Lebanon War alone, 11 people lost their lives in the defense of our country. We always embrace the widows, orphans and bereaved parents and siblings and make sure that their loss and sacrifice is never forgotten.
The IAF Casualty and Loss Service Center housed at the IAF Center, provides social and psychological support as well as outreach programs. This military unit works in conjunction and close cooperation with the members of the IAF Center who are former IAF officers and soldiers.
A unique support program has evolved out of a keener understanding of the expressed desire of the widows and orphans that provides social interaction, especially around the Jewish High Holidays. Since 2006, the IAF Casualty and Loss Service Center has organized an annual Passover Spring Retreat for IAF widows and orphans. The families view the Retreat as an opportunity to be with others that understand their grief and share their feelings. Their collective grief forges unbreakable bonds and friendships and enables life to continue.
The Widows and Orphans Annual Retreat has become a tradition. It brings together bereaved families for three days of recreational, therapeutic and bond-building sanctuary.
As funding is extremely limited and only a symbolic fee is requested of the families attending, there is a great need for additional support for this program to continue.
The widows and orphans look forward to this event, which provides some respite from their daily struggles and puts in context and provides meaning to their irreplaceable loss. In each other’s company the families can push aside any feelings of guilt and benefit from a rare opportunity of having a few days of mutual comfort, enjoyment and relaxation. The retreat is a crucial event for these families as it allows them to relax and gather energy to continue facing the challenges in their everyday lives.
The holiday Passover season, when the loss of a loved one is often
felt the most, is the time where the IAF sends a firm message that the Israel Air Force does not forget it’s fallen.
Each year there are between 100-150 widows and over 100 orphans participating in the Retreat. Locations change annually and range from Eilat in the Sout
The three-day program includes:h to the mountains in the Galilee in the north of the country.
• Therapeutic and arts and crafts workshops for both the widows and the orphans
• Site seeing and touring
• Sports activities
• Spa treatments
• A special performance at a closing dinner
• Gift Bags and other take-home items for the widows and orphans
It has become an annual tradition for the IAF Commander to attend the closing dinner and to spend a few hours with the widows and orphans. The group is always escorted by the IAF Casualty and Loss Unit officers and soldiers who are specially trained in psychology and social work. In their evaluation reports we have found how significantly these three days enable the families to express their emotions and thoughts by bonding with others who share similar tragedies.
The IAF Casualty and Loss Service Center has found that this framework is the most effective to reach out to the inner thoughts and feelings of the bereaved. Therefore, it is of outmost urgency that we provide this program with the necessary funds to continue operating. Sadly, the economic compensation from the Ministry of Defense that the families of the fallen receive is not sufficient and often families are forced to reduce their standards of living. Many participating families are even unable to pay the minimum cost of the retreat.
In order to enable a full, 3 day retreat, $65,000 is needed each year to supplement the minimum funding allocated by the Ministry of Defense. A fund in the amount of $165,000 would enable funding for this program for the coming three years.
The contributor of this program will be recognized at the annual retreat as well as on all material and in all publications and press related to the retreat.
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