The Jersey shore was a place of friendship and healing for a group of wounded Israeli soldiers, who spent a week there under the auspices of Achim Lachaim-Hope for Heroism.
Seven soldiers and one personal aide arrived Aug. 24 for a visit that included stops in Manhattan, Great Adventure, the Deal Casino, Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, the Freehold Mall, and Pier Village in Long Branch.
The goal of the Seattle-based Achim Lachaim is to “put their lives back together…until they are able to return to productive, meaningful lives in the State of Israel,” said its director, Rabbi Chaim Levine. One of its programs sends soldiers to spots around the world for experiences that have proven helpful in healing post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Jersey Shore Jewish community welcomed a group of Achim Lachaim soldiers for the second year. Participating institutions included the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, the JCC of Greater Monmouth County, and volunteers representing the Syrian and Ashkenazi communities. More than 100 sponsors donated goods and services, including restaurant meals and T-shirts.
“We had thought that last year was a one-time event, but when the request came for a second visit, we had no hesitation,” said organizer Yossi Teichman of Ocean Township. “With the help of families from the Jersey Shore to Israel and through the kindness of many of our community residents — in particular members of the Nakash, Horovits, Tajfel, Gerszberg, and Batesh families — we provided all that was needed to give these soldiers friendship and the experience of what U.S. life has to offer.”
Teichman’s wife, Shouli, was on vacation in Israel but worked via e-mail, phones, and faxes to coordinate the program. “We prepared a full agenda from morning till late night, to give the soldiers as much fun as possible,” she said.
The visitors’ stories were “amazing,” said Yossi Teichman. “Their sacrifices to protect our homeland and its survival are enormous.”
Some of the soldiers had visible injuries, the result of hard military action, said community host Carl Gross of Monmouth Beach, “but all of them have a wound that is not flesh and blood and is not cured easily. These invisible wounds of PTSD wreak havoc on their lives.”
“We know by the stories they shared how hard their lives are,” said Teichman, “how they fight their demons to have a normal life. They have managed to work through their physical challenges, but a trip like this helps them learn how to cope and manage social interaction.”
The group was led by Dekel Darchani and Yossi Cohen, who was part of the 2010 delegation.
“This was probably one of the best weeks of my life,” said one of the soldiers, Nadav Eimani. “We found a wonderful community that showed us genuine, from-the-heart love, care, and attention. Being in this environment while spending 24/7 with my brother soldiers is giving a positive boost to my life.”
Levine expressed his gratitude to the organizers.
“After talking to the soldiers who recently returned from your community,” he wrote, “I can tell you it was something wonderful and has helped them to take a critical step in putting their lives back together.”