Group Seeks to Give Hope to 11 Widows, 26 Orphans From Operation Protective Edge (INTERVIEW)
Israel’s IDF Widows & Orphans Organization is providing social, emotional and financial support for 11 widows and 26 orphans whose husbands and fathers died while serving in the Israel Defense Forces during the summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the group’s Chairwoman, Nava Shoham-Solan, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
“If we see unique problems that the widow or the family needs, we make all efforts to help them,” Shoham-Solan said. “I went from home to home of the families. I went there to see if they need help. I [also] gave them some advice.”
The IDF Widows & Orphans Organization, established in 1991, is the sole organization recognized by the State of Israel representing the widows and orphans of Israel’s fallen soldiers. The non-profit organizes welfare activities for the children, bar and bat mitzvah events, and provides amenities and care for new mothers, among their many efforts.
Shoham-Solan spoke of one pregnant widow who was left with three small children after her husband died in Operation Protective Edge. Two days after concluding shiva, the customary seven days of mourning according to Jewish tradition, the widow gave birth. The IDF Widows organization visited her and provided for supplies for the newborn. Shoham-Solan also took it upon herself to fix up the small garden by the family’s home and buy a trampoline for the children.
“When I visit a new widow usually I tell her that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and she will pass a very difficult period, she will never forget her husband, she will always cry and be sorry about the loss, but beside the sorrow she will experience happiness one day,” Shoham-Solan said. “And when? when her children will celebrate the first grade, will celebrate a bar mitzvah event, a wedding, get a diploma from university… I give them the hope and they feel, when I come to visit them, that there is hope in the future. Although she can’t see it at that moment. The happiness seems so far away.”
Shoam-Solan became a widow in June 1982 when he husband died serving in the Lebanon War. She was left to raise a 6-year-old and a 7- month-old baby on her own.
“I had a very difficult time,” Shoam-Solan said of her struggle with her husband’s death. “All my life was broken. I had to collect all the pieces of my life and to rebuild my family again because I could not dwell too much. I had my kids. I had to raise them.”
Several years ago, she committed herself to helping families like her own and began as a volunteer for the IDF Widows & Orphans Organization before becoming the groups’ chairwoman. She has since remarried a reserve pilot in the IDF and together they have two children.
The IDF Widows & Orphans Organization has almost 100 volunteers and represents a total of 5,000 widows and 3,000 children, Shoam-Solan said. They provide wedding gifts and school scholarships, give orphans starting first grade backpacks with school supplies, and give teens equipment when they join the IDF. The organization also gives loans to widows and sets up vacations for them. Within the group there is a Widow Adopt Widow program where a widow who succeeds in rebuilding her and her family’s life after losing her husband years ago helps new widows do the same.
The organization receives funding from Israel’s Ministry of Defense as well as donations from around the world. They also charge a membership fee.
Shoham-Solan said the organization helps widows and orphans know that they are not alone and that somebody cares about them.
“We are the second home for them,” she added.