Meron – The crushing news hit Klal Yisroel like a ton of bricks. Within a short time, the death toll hit an unfathomable 45 of our brothers R”L. But as the bodies were identified at Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, the gut-wrenching job of informing families that they will never see their father or brother again required those with great skill and expertise.
The difficulty of the task was only magnified when young children were involved. Who will tell them that Tatty was taken from them and that their lives will never be the same?
Enter Rabbi Meir Aker, Director of Buneinu. As part of the Tov V’Chesed network led by Rabbi Yaakov Eliezer Shisha, he and the team at Buneinu and Bnoseinu serve the emotional needs of orphaned children in Israel in many ways. Among their responsibilities is sharing tragic news with young children and guiding them through the difficult hours and days. Rabbi Aker sadly received lots of additional experience during Israel’s winter Coronavirus surge, which claimed the lives of numerous young parents.
As soon as the enormity of the tragedy became clear, members of the ZAKA group contacted Rabbi Shisha to come down to their command center where many families were anxiously waiting for word on their father or brother. Some of the individuals were already confirmed dead R”L but word had to be passed along to the families delicately. Rabbi Shisha and his team skillfully handled this agonizing task and coordinated to update the families who were already well asleep, unaware of the news awaiting them in the morning.
In the following hours, Rabbi Shisha and Rabbi Aker set up command in Tov V’Chesed’s Meron headquarters that was originally outfitted to host the streams of Buneinu members visiting Meron. The heartbreaking work continued until Shabbos, and resumed as soon as Shabbos was over. Some children had questions, others wanted to know what pesukim or tefilos to say, and many tearfully asked who would look after them. With his gentle demeanor and chinuch expertise, Rabbi Aker walked them through what it means, what to expect, and assured them that they are not alone.
At the request of some of the traumatized yesomim who had visited Miron, the Tov V’Chesed staff remained locally over Shabbos and were joined by the renowned mashpia Rabbi Elimelech Biderman Shlit”a who met with the team Friday night to hear more about each of the families and how they are handling the tragedy. He later publicly shared how inspired he was by the strength and emunah of Klal Yisroel during this difficult period.