Reaching Across an Ocean to Help Survivors of Terror

In our Care: The recent increase in terror on Israel’s streets brings a return of familiar fear and dread, triggering a collective trauma experienced with particular force by those whose lives were previously upended in its wake. Here is the story of the B family, in our care for many years, and the outreach provided by project coordinator, social worker, Tamar Hatzir.  

In 2008, a katyusha rocket landed in front of then 8-year-old Koby directly outside his family’s modest home in the south of Israel. Koby has an older sister, Orit (today, 19) and a younger brother, Gabrielle (today, 13).  Following the attack, Koby changed from a friendly child with a sense of humor to a socially introverted, overweight teen. He is considerably dependent on his mother, during the day, and on his father, with whom he sleeps. Koby suffers from nightmares, nighttime incontinence, and debilitating anxiety, common complications for those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Koby is afraid to walk alone or travel by public transportation; his mother must either drive or escort him by taxi to school. Last year, after a long struggle with the educational authorities, his mother was able to arrange for Koby to go to a new school better able to serve his special needs. The family is still fragile and needs the help provided by Tamar, who notes:

“The Roberta Project helps the family on a number of fronts: first, I am assisting Koby’s parents to better respond to his PTSD while remaining available to deal with the needs of his siblings, and to maintain their own marital relationship which had deteriorated considerably over the years. Second, I am working one-on-one to help empower his mother to take better care of her health problems and return to the work force. Also, after working with him for two years, I am pleased Koby’s situation is improving, as he is now willing to play in the street with other children. Third, we have provided the family with food vouchers during the holidays to make life a bit easier.”


Emma Fishbein

Thanks to Emma – From “Dawn to Healing”:  Meet Emma Fishbein, the Chicago teen who recently became a Bat Mitzvah. To mark the occasion, she asked her friends and family not for presents, but to help her raise money for ATZUM’s Roberta Project by sponsoring her in an 18-mile swim.  Emma set as her target $2,500 and has to date raised over $4,000! The funds will help people like Efrat (“To be Healed” in Hebrew), a girl who grew up with the name Shachar (“Dawn” in Hebrew) who was injured in a terror attack a decade ago. Read about Emma’s successful campaign sponsored by Root Funding  and Efrat’s story of how and why she changed her name and the healing that is still ongoing. Emma’s generosity is not surprising; she comes from a caring and munificent family that has helped raise funds in support of the Roberta Project for the last several years.  To Emma and her family – Kol Hakavod, (“All of the respect!”). May you be an example for others.

Surviving a Terror Attack – Two Personal Stories

A total of 1,265 people have been killed as a result of terrorism since September, 2000; thousands more have been injured. For the bereaved and the physically and psychologically wounded, the trauma persists.

These are the stories of a young woman who lives with the haunting memory of how life changed in a split second when she survived a brutal terror bombing; and of a young boy whose severe trauma following Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) was retriggered during the 2014 Gaza War.  ATZUM, through the Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror, provides assistance to these people, and many others whose needs are insufficiently met by public and/or private resources. 

Surviving a Suicide Bus Bomb Attack

It began early Sunday, February 22, 2004. I was 13 years old. That morning I was getting my little brother ready for kindergarten. My father offered to give me a lift to school. Not wanting to hold him up, I told him to leave without me and I’d catch a bus as usual. Once on my way, rushing to school, I saw bus number 14 pass and waited for the next one.

That period of the second intifada was a time of many terror attacks. Three weeks prior, 11 were killed and 51 wounded in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood when a suicide bomber exploded himself aboard a bus. Such news had become routine.

After boarding the next bus, I noticed another passenger whose appearance seemed suspicious. Wearing a large green coat and jeans, he was clutching a big black bag. I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and told him I thought I’d sighted a bus bomber. He told me to get off the bus as soon as possible. When I made the move to stand up, the terrorist pushed me back onto the seat, forced the bag filled with explosives onto me, held me with one arm and detonated the bomb with his other.

I remained fully conscious. All I could see was blood; then I began to focus on the other passengers, some dead, others shouting. Oddly, despite the screams, for a time it was deafeningly quiet.

I tried to stand, but fell, not sure if I’d lost my legs or if they just would not respond. I attempted unsuccessfully to lift myself up to escape through the window. Cutting myself on the shattered glass, I dragged myself forward. Though I’d only made it a few feet, I ran out of strength, finding myself next to a soldier who placed his head on me and closed his eyes forever.

As soon as Magen David Adom emergency teams arrived, a paramedic lifted me and tried to find out how to contact my parents. Their reiterated, at first irritating, questions kept me conscious, and probably saved my life. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where I was in a coma for two weeks.

Over time I came to understand that my injuries, defined as extremely critical (the most serious of the attack), included collapsed lungs, shrapnel in my head and hands, a fractured skull, third degree burns on my face and hands, and two torn eardrums. Recovery and hospitalization would be difficult and long. Once I was stable, I was transferred to the surgery department for continuing treatment. 

After a month, I was finally released from the hospital. I then underwent eight months rehabilitation, re-learning how to speak, eat on my own, crawl and eventually walk without falling; in short, everything learned during the first years of life. As I had also missed two years of education owing to my extensive rehabilitation, I eventually returned to my studies.

Today, the worst of the injuries are behind me.  I finished my schooling and my national service, worked at a variety of jobs and recently began my B.A. in human resources.  The support received from the National Insurance Institute helps, but does not enable me to pursue the studies of my choice.  I am fortunate ATZUM filled this gap, providing me with direction and a much needed computer. I have greatly benefitted from ATZUM’s determination to aid people like me who have not received sufficient assistance elsewhere. 

Terror times two*

Single parent Moran and her two sons, Yossi, serving in the IDF, and Ami, in second grade, live in Sderot, a town in Israel’s south that has been recurrently bombarded by Kassam rocket and mortar fire from Gaza since April, 2000. Moran, with a minimum-wage job, does her best to support her children financially and emotionally, though their lives are very difficult. November 14, 2012, marked the beginning of “Operation Pillar of Defense”, a military response to extreme escalation of rocket fire into the region. That day the family’s situation took a turn for the worse.

Ashdod synagogue hit by rocket fire - July 22, 2014As Moran was walking Ami to school, a rocket landed near them. They quickly ran to a neighbor’s home and hid in his shelter until the all-clear signal sounded.  It took considerable effort for his mother and the neighbor to calm down Ami and get him to agree to exit the shelter.

Though accustomed to such routine, this near-miss proved devastating. Ami developed severe anxiety, suffered numerous physical ailments, and refused to leave the house or his mother’s side. He was diagnosed with PTSD, for which he was professionally treated.

Less than two years later, July 8, 2014, Operation Defensive Shield (the 2014 Gaza War) was launched to again halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Ami’s PTSD retriggered and worsened, rendering him emotionally unstable and incapable of starting the school year. Today, more than six months after the conclusion of the war, Ami still receives intensive therapy and medication to help tackle life’s daily challenges and treat the chronic bladder and bowel dysfunction connected to his PTSD. Moran also receives parental guidance and social support to develop tools to deal with the situation.

While receiving assistance from many sources, a number of critical needs remain unattended. ATZUM is providing emotional as well as financial support to buy clothing and school supplies and to enable Ami to participate in a number of social and after-school activities. We will remain closely connected to the family to respond to other needs that may arise.


Since 2002, ATZUM’s Roberta Project for Survivors of Terror has facilitated the transfer of $1.25 million in aid, grants and loans to meet subsistence, educational and dental care needs of terror survivors and family members. The Project provides direct assistance to families whose lives have been irreparably shattered, particularly those whose main provider or child was the victim.  While we also assist survivors of the most recent violence, ATZUM specifically works to identify survivors from long-forgotten attacks who are not receiving adequate assistance and are often overlooked by programs of assistance focused on more recent cases.

You’re Invited to ATZUM’s Event in Chicago on October 8

Please join us for the eighth annual gathering of the Chicago chapter of Friends of ATZUM: Providing direct assistance to survivors of terror in Israel


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

7:00 p.m.

at the home of Lisa and Todd Fishbein

833 Kimballwood Lane, Highland Park

Please RSVP to


We will be joined by

Rabbi Levi D. Lauer

Founding Executive Director, ATZUM


 Yael & Micha Hershkovitz

Terror and Beyond: Relentless Memory, Old Wounds and New Dreams


About Yael Hershkovitz

yael picYael Hershkovitz, a practicing attorney, was born in 1977 in Ashdod and grew up in Jerusalem. Her army service was completed in the Ministry of Defense.

In 2004, on her way to work, Yael was gravely injured in a central Jerusalem, terrorist bus bombing that murdered 11 Israelis and injured many more. Gravely wounded, Yael

suffered facial burns and severe head, hearing and sight injuries and other wounds. She endured a lengthy hospitalization and prolonged, difficult rehabilitation, which included repeated surgeries to reconstruct her scalp, improve her eyesight and hearing, and repair extensive facial scarring.

Less than a year after the attack, with incalculable courage and determination, Yael began her BA studies in law and, soon after passing the qualifying exams and internship, began her LLM. In 2011, she married Micha Hershkovitz. They are currently living in San Diego where Micha is studying for an MBA and where, during the past year, Yael underwent three additional surgeries related to her hearing injury.

 We are fortunate to have Yael and Micha as our guests to share their story.

ATZUM’s Documentary – the Aftermath of Terror

ATZUM is currently working on a short documentary film to offer insight into the healing process in the aftermath of terror. Last week I had the privilege to be part of a conversation with two survivors of terror who are participating in this film. On the way home I had time to ponder something they said.

The conversation took place at the end of a very long, intense day. A. is directing the film. She is a 24-year-old survivor of terror seriously wounded in high school on a Jerusalem bus. She suffered burns Keep Reading

Visiting Survivors of Terror on Purim

I had the opportunity to be in Jerusalem for Shushan Purim and join in the celebrations and Mitzvot of the day by doing several home visits to Survivor of Terror Families. My 11-year-old daughter Talia, who had the day off from school, joined me.

We spoke at length about who she would meet and what she would see. She was well prepared and was, in fact, a wonderful addition to the day’s events. I am so proud of her empathy and insights into the complexity of the challenges facing the families we visited.

Our first stop was to S., whose husband suffered irreversible damage to his leg Keep Reading

An ATZUM Volunteer Shares His Experiences

I came to Israel in September 2009 to learn in Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah. I was very excited to be attending Shvilei Hatorah because I knew that not only would I have the opportunity to learn Torah and see the country but I would also have the ability to volunteer in the community with a chessed project of my choice. I chose to volunteer as a Big Brother for ATZUM because I truly sympathized with the suffering of victims of terror and I felt a strong responsibility to help ease the hardship in any way possible. Also, having never had any younger siblings of my own, I wanted the chance to be a positive influence for someone in need of one. Keep Reading

Announcing Hoops for Hope

ATZUM is proud to announce its First Annual Hoops for Hope, 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament.

Date: Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
Place: Malcha Stadium

All funds raised will be allocated to significantly assist 26 Survivor of Terror families urgently in need of support.

Stay tuned for further details and registration information which will be posted on our website.

How the Combination of Dreams, Motivation and Hard Work led to Success for one Survivor of Terror

Terror took her father and placed many challenges in her path, but her father was part of her motivation and her success will be a blessing to his memory.

Meet N, 33 years and an inspiration. At the age of 21, her father was murdered in a terror attack while at work outside Israel. At the time of his death, N was completing her army service. “I had a great childhood, but due to financial difficulties my father was forced to travel for work. When he was killed I was at loose ends and didn’t know what to do.”

N, a capable student, decided to go to university. As a Survivor of Terror she was entitled to a tuition grant from the National Insurance Institute. Because she was already 21 when her father was killed, she was not entitled to a living stipend. Therefore, while working odd jobs whenever possible, depending on bank loans to get from semester to semester, she studied psychology full-time.

Upon graduation, she took a job at a children’s home as a counselor, where four years later she continues to work part-time. With the help of several second jobs, working nights and summers, she saved enough tuition for her first year of a graduate school program in educational psychology.

N lives with family in Jerusalem; goes to school in Beer-Sheva; and works in Tel Aviv. Much of her studying is done on the bus. She is now in her last year of class work and has started researching her thesis. In September, she will begin a four-year internship. With your generous help ATZUM was privileged to assist N with her tuition this year.

I was deeply moved by N’s story and asked to meet her. I told her she has amazing courage and strength. I asked how she was able to do all this. Her answer was beautiful in its simplicity: “You have dreams, you have goals, and you sacrifice.”

A More then Unusual Close up and Personal Home Visit

Working with many Survivors of Terror, we rely on home visits to help develop a stronger relationship with the families. These visits are helpful, giving us a better understanding of their needs and offering us insight that allows us to help more effectively. Yesterday we made a home visit together. It was one of the most emotionally packed visits we have shared and feel compelled to share it with ATZUM’s friends.

Every day we hear about this problem or that challenge, often with a request for help. Yesterday we were not asked for assistance; rather we were spontaneously drawn into the world of a child who against all expectations survived a terror attack.

O is eight years old and suffers severe neurological damage as a result of a Kassam rocket attack last year. We visit with the family often and have shared many joyous moments as he continues to surprise his physicians who thought he would not live; would not walk; would not talk. But he can and does all that and so much more. This beautiful and precocious child managed to exhaust us one day at the mall and another at the zoo.

Generally full of energy he knows exactly what he wants to do. Happy to see us, yesterday he did not even want to open his gift. During the visit he was upset, his mind racing, shooting off thoughts like sparks as they run down a sparkler’s wire stick.

One moment talking about food and then flashing back to the time of the rocket attack; the next crying and asking his mother, “Why me? Why not you? Why not my friends?” Within minutes he asked the nurse, “Can you give me a shot and fix my arm?” and then asking pointing to his damaged arm, “Who did this to me?” Moments later was talking about his baby sister “who is really beautiful.” This was followed by more questions like “Can I get married?”    All these thoughts were threaded with casual conversation while we tossed a ball.

Reading and learning about the affects of trauma is one thing, seeing it is another. His mother could barely keep pace with him. She would relax as he chose a neutral subject only to be struck again by his next thought.  The frustration was immense, just one year after the attack the impact is crystallizing for him.  Unclear Remembering the attack; what has happened since; his disabilities and what will be his future.

We were welcomed during a very stressful time and overwhelmed by his mother’s strength, patience and love. We feel privileged to be able to offer support by sending volunteers and offering assistance when needed. Just as we have shared those joyous moments as he began to walk and talk we look forward to being there to offer support as he fights towards a complete recovery.

Save the Date – Chicago-Highland Park Annual Event

Save the date for the Chicago-Highland Park Annual Event


Date:  Tuesday, Dec. 8th, 2009
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Swislow family: 2313 Sheridan Road, Highland Park, IL

Please RSVP: Nada Popovic

If you do not live in Chicago but know people who do, please forward the information to them.  For more information contact Sara Wenger.

This year’s keynote speaker is Survivor of Terror, Miri Furstenberg.

Miri FurstenbergMiri Furstenberg, 61, lives in Rishon Lezion and is the widowed mother of two and grandmother of four. She is a survivor of the Ma’ale Akrabim massacre, an attack on a bus that killed eleven passengers including her entire family.

On March 16, 1954, an Egged bus carrying 14 passengers made its way from Eilat to Tel Aviv. As the bus ascended a steep grade it was ambushed by Jordanian and Palestinian gunmen who killed the driver, Miri’s father, as well as passengers who tried to escape. The terrorists then boarded the bus, shot and raped the surviving passengers, including Miri’s mother. Among four survivors, two severely injured, was five-year-old Miri Furstenberg, spared by the heroic act of an Israeli soldier who defended her with his body. Miri’s 10 year old brother was mortally wounded and remained in a vegetative state until his death in 1986.

Miri grew up an orphan on a kibbutz, without rehabilitation, her experience typical of many terror survivors from Israel’s early years when the State was ill-equipped to address their needs. Despite Miri’s traumatic, emotionally disadvantaged childhood, she worked hard to rebuild her life, raised and supported two children. In addition to now working long hours as a taxi driver for some of Israel’s most prominent professionals, Miri volunteers helping poverty stricken families as well as mentally retarded adults.

Miri frequently contemplates why she survived. She believes she lived in order to help others in distress.