Traffic came to a halt and people stood in silence honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror Monday morning as sirens wailed across Israel. Yom Hazikaron, or Israel’s Day of Remembrance is dedicated to remembering the sacrifice of 22,682 soldiers and some 2000 victims of terror. Among them, Eti Mamistavlov recalled the moment she heard her husband Yossi was killed by a suicide bomber leaving her four children without a father.
In the early afternoon of September 19, 2002, Yossi, 39, was driving his bus #4 in Tel Aviv when a Palestinian terrorist targeted the passengers. Yossi tried unsuccessfully to stop the bomber as he and five others perished and more than 70 were wounded.
From her Or Yehuda home Mamistavlov spoke about her life since the attack. Though she maintains optimism about the future, she is tested every day.
“It’s something which stays with you all the time and doesn’t pass because as time passes you miss loved ones more, yearn more. To those who say time is a healer, in this case it’s not so true. You learn to live with the pain, the longing,” she said.
When the attack occurred, her children were ages 14, 11, 2 and a six-month old baby. The loss left her with the responsibility to care for them on her own under a cloud of financial instability including bills for psychiatric care for each member of the family that continues today.
But Mamistavlov takes each day as a new blessing. She takes comfort in sharing with other survivors, and has developed a deep friendship with another terror victim, also a father of four who was paralyzed and lost his wife in a separate attack.
“We help each other and understand the difficulties that go with the experience,” she said.
Chabad Terror Victims Program counts more than 2900 families in Israel affected by terror, including 10,000 wounded in need of assistance. CTVP Associate Director Rabbi Yossi Swerdlov, says the organization extends all forms of assistance. “Many attacks happened in public buses and markets in the low income sector, and even if the victims were financially stable prior to an attack, their livelihood very often falls apart,” Swerdlov said.
Not being forgotten, especially during holidays and family life-cycle events, says Mamistavlov, is critical to survivors, and she is grateful for CTVP’s financial and emotional support. Representatives from the organization visit her before holidays, provide counseling, and organized a bar mitzvah for her son.
Since the government isn’t able to provide for terror victims, the 230 Chabad centers across the country act as a network filling that void throughout the year. “Yom Hazikaron is a day for the rest of society to remember all of Israel’s fallen but really, every day is Yom Hazikaron for these families, as every single day they live with the loss,” says Swerdolv. Mamistavlov agrees.
“Every victim of terror is like a soldier. They gave their lives for Israel by simply being Jews,” she said. “For me pain is pain and it doesn’t matter if it’s a fallen soldier or a victim of terror.” And yet, Mamistavlov thinks of others—the majority of those who are grieving today, and whose suffering, she admits, is even worse than hers. “It is very hard to mourn a husband, but to mourn the loss of a child is the hardest, and most of those commemorated on this day are children who fell in war.”