On Israel’s Memorial Day, One Man’s Quest to Channel the Trauma of Terror Victims Into Something Positive
In 2002, Jacob Kimchy’s father died in a Hamas suicide bombing in his hometown of Rishon LeZion. Thirteen years later Kimchy is still struggling with the loss, including nightmares that have him screaming in middle of the night. Nevertheless, he has embarked on a journey to help other terror victims overcome their traumas as Israel on Wednesday marks Yom Hazikaron, the national day of remembrance for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
“I met victims of trauma that would not share anything,” said Kimchy. The pain builds up inside the victims, “it’s like a poison. It kills you and eats you slowly. The other way is to open your heart, to open your mouth, to express and to share, and to do.”
“In the psychological world there’s something called Post-Traumatic Growth” and it presents another path for victims of trauma, said Kimchy. It involves taking what happened and turning it into “something bigger.” It can then become something more positive in their own lives.
Koby’s father, Rami Kimchy, a taxi driver, entered a nightclub on May 7th,2002 in Rishon LeZion to pick up a client. A few minutes after Rami had walked into the club, an 18-year-old Hamas suicide bomber entered it and blew himself up, killing Rami and 14 others instantly. Jacob, one of three children, was one of the first to arrive at the scene, hoping to help any survivors. When he noticed his father’s taxi parked in front of the club, Jacob realized that his father had been killed.
“Losing him destroyed me completely,” Jacob said, adding that he had a “strong, special relationship” with his father. “It was beyond hard. At first I refused to see a psychologist. I felt like my father was just murdered, why would someone try to help me to take my pain out. I want to feel the pain because I deserve to feel the pain of the death of my father.”
“Some days I couldn’t function,” he added. “I was a student. I used to go to school and I used to hear sirens. I used to look at the board and the teacher and I used to see a suicide bomber. It was insane. Really, really insane.”
Jacob finally sought psychological help and decided that as he carried on with his life, he wanted to reach out to other victims of terrorism. In 2006 he founded One Heart, a non-profit organization that united adults and children from around the world for summer camps and group meetings called Survivors’ Circles. The organization also offered free psychological support and plastic surgery for injuries sustained during terror attacks.
Jacob’s memoir, A New Sunrise: A True Story About Surviving the Imaginable, was published this month and details his heart-wrenching but inspiring journey since his father’s death. This Yom Hazikaron will be the first in 10 years that Jacob will not be in Israel with his mother.
Jacob often speaks publicly on the subject of surviving trauma and terrorism. He has appeared at international conferences for victims of terrorism and has spoken around the world, including in the Netherlands, England, Spain, France, Sweden, the US and Israel.
He said the universal message he tells all victims of terrorism is, never give up. “Whatever happens to you – you’ve been victimized, if you lost a limb, if you lost a loved one, a family member, a friend – it doesn’t matter, there’s always help. We can make ourselves to chose for a better way; a better place and never give up.”
Jacob pushed through his own trauma and said he has grown a lot from it. On the other hand, dealing with the loss of his father and witnessing the devastation first-hand is something that will always stay with him. He said hearing about the horrors of terrorism from the media is one thing, but to see it first hand is like “hitting your head very hard and waking you up, and telling you that all those things that people hear every day are actually true.”
“It’s been 13 years, [and] I still suffer from nightmares. A lot of nightmares where myself, my friends, my family, we are all getting killed over and over in suicide bombings,” he said. “I truly wake up, until today, in the middle of the night from the nightmares and I scream because I feel that it is so real. I wake up from a dream where I lose both hands or my legs and I scream because it is so real and so scary and I’m not even sure if I’m awake or not. It takes me a second to relax.”
“Parents are like both of our legs,” he said. “Mom is right, dad is left. It doesn’t matter how it happens but when you lose a parent it’s like you lost one of your legs. It’s hard to walk, it’s hard to continue and to see how you can proceed life. But yes, you can. And we must all know it.”