Monday, November 18th | 20 Heshvan 5780

May 25, 2017 10:29 am

Using Comedy to Heal the Wounds of Terror

avatar by Lana Melman


Avi Liberman. Photo: Provided.

I remember how I felt when I first saw Paradise Now, the 2006 Oscar-nominated film about two Palestinian men solicited to become suicide bombers in Israel.

At the end of the movie, one of the two men enters a bus teeming with Israelis, and takes a seat. The camera holds on the man’s face, as his unseen fingers reach for a cord that takes the lives of the innocent.

But there was no explosion. No cries from the victims. No desperate shouts from the rescuers. The camera simply cut to a white screen, and silence. For the filmmaker and the audience, the story was over.

But the story doesn’t end when the cord is pulled. It doesn’t end with the mangled bodies, the search for the missing, the identification of the victims or the burying of the dead. 

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It’s not really a bus that gets blown apart, but lives. Terror attacks deprive children of their parents, and rob parents of a piece of their future. The barbaric act also lingers in the fear and loss that ripples through families and neighbors, and across a country.

Since September 13, 2015, 49 people have been killed and 731 people (including 4 Palestinians) injured in terrorist attacks in Israel — a country with a population smaller than the suburbs surrounding Paris.

And how do the survivors cope? How do they pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward?

What about terror’s other victims — the people left behind?

In 2001, after terrorists brutally murdered their 13-year-old son, Koby Mandell (and his friend, Yosef Ishran, while the two were hiking) — the Mandell family knew that the tragedy could easily destroy them.

To go on, Koby’s father, Seth (a rabbi), and his mother, Sherri (an author and journalist), needed to transform the cruelty of Koby’s death into acts of kindness and hope. For that reason, they created the Koby Mandell Foundation, which provides healing programs for families struck by terrorism and tragedy.

It’s big task to lift a spirit, and the Mandells don’t do it alone. For instance, they have the support of Los Angeles-based comic and writer Avi Liberman, who helps them raise funds for their life-affirming work.

Liberman was first inspired to lift hearts with comedy during a visit to Israel during the Second Intifada, in 2002. Today, Liberman brings top name comics to Israel twice a year to perform in his “Comedy for Koby” tours, with all profits going to the Mandell Foundation.

Once there, the comics see more than the inside of a comedy club — they see Israel and meet its people. When they return home, they become emissaries for the Jewish state, sharing their experiences with the world.

Creating emissaries for Israel is essential to Liberman, who openly expresses his opinion that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) is antisemitism, and must be combated.

In an exclusive video interview with Liberate Art, Liberman talks about his work to heal the hearts of survivors, and his opposition to BDS.

The Comedy for Koby tour returns to Israel from May 25-29, with comic superstars Brian Regan and Joe Bolster.

If you live in Israel, buy a ticket.  If you don’t, tell your Israeli friends.

Help Hollywood help Israel. And help heal the hearts of the people that terror left behind.

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