Batsheva, a frail and frightened seven year old girl with wavy brown hair, arrived at the Emunah's Neve Michael Crisis Center ten months ago with sadness in her eyes and in her young heart. She came from a home where her siblings were victims of sexual abuse and incest. As the youngest member of this dysfunctional family, her role in life was to stand watch at the bedroom door while her brother and sister were being raped. From up close she saw and heard the terrible things that would happen to her if she would continue living with her abusive parents. She really didn’t have a choice in the matter, and had no idea that in normal homes children received love and attention. The “norm” as she understood it was the very sick situation she had been thrown into that ruined her childhood.
Then one day a woman from the Welfare Department, accompanied by a police officer, got her safely out of her “home” and delivered her to our doorstep.
From the outset we knew that we had on our hands a hardcore case of a neglected and emotionally abused child. All the familiar symptoms were there: her downheartedness, fear and confusion; her inability to look you in the eye and seeming mistrust of all adults.
After a few difficult months in the Crisis Center Batsheva was assigned to a “Family Home” which consists of a normal family (parents and their kids) who live in the Children’s Village and take in Emunah's Neve Michael children. Batsheva’s new “sisters” are eight little girls (ages 6-10) who were brought to Emunah's Neve Michael along with their own horror stories. For the first time in her young life Batsheva is finding out how it feels to receive love and attention from kind adults, which aside from her caring adoptive parents include two dedicated National Service girls and a warm-hearted house mother.
Bat Sheva was assigned to our Sulamot (Scales) music program, which is run by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and has proven therapeutic value for children at risk. This groundbreaking means of therapy has worked wonders at Neve Michael, which was selected for the Scales pilot program five years ago, and now its magic is working for Batsheva. In a short matter of time she has learned how to play the violin in an orchestra with other boys and girls and has even performed with them on stage. Barely ten months after her arrival at the Children’s Village, Batsheva is adopting well, interacting with other children and gaining confidence with each passing day.
Odell is a twelve-year-old girl with a rare health condition requiring costly medication, diet and exercise under close medical supervision. Before she arrived at Emunah's Neve Michael with her four sisters, the unusual state of affairs that characterized her childhood left no room for health concerns. In fact, Odell’s formative years were so abnormal that no one in her world paid attention to her special medical needs.Odell’s father, now serving a 26-year prison term, was the leader of a cult incorporating seven wives and all of their children. One of the women ran away and alerted the police of the goings-on inside the cult. The women and their families had been held against their will in an atmosphere of sexual degradation and drug and alcohol consumption. While the women were forced to participate in sex orgies the children languished in unsanitary and sub-human conditions as they were maltreated, poorly clothed, verbally abused, beaten and starved. The children were not allowed to attend school or make any contact with the outside world. It seemed to them as though their nightmarish childhood would go on forever until the authorities intervened and put an end to it.When Odell was delivered to the Emunah's Neve Michael Emergency Crisis Center in the dead of night along with her traumatized sisters, the physical and emotional damage to these girls was so severe that Odell’s rare health problem paled in comparison.The horror that these girls went through is inestimable. But now, after three years in the Children’s Village, the girls, with the help of our caring professional staff, are mending the fragments of their shattered youth. They are attending school, interacting with other children at risk and making friends for life. In supervised therapy sessions, they are coming to grips with their lost childhood years and are learning that the real world has something better to offer them. Surrounded by love and kindness from their teachers, counselors and supportive new friends, Odell and her sisters can now experience the joys of teen hood and look forward to growing up.
Tal (10) and Ishai (8) are brothers from Northern Israel who recently were brought to the Emunah's Neve Michael Emergency Crisis Center. We knew from the Welfare Authorities that they had been abused by their father. What we didn’t know was the extent of the abuse. When we asked Ishai how it came about that he had stitches on his forehead, the boy was so afraid his father would get back at him that he lied and said his brother pushed him. But Tal corrected him. “You know it wasn’t me. It was him. He can’t hurt us now…”
The boys’ father, a dangerous alcoholic with a history of violence, was so rough with them that the authorities have prohibited visitation rights. The boys are not allowed to go home and the father can’t go anywhere near his children.
Tal, who has scars on his back and shoulders from all the beatings, says that the drinking turned his father into a monster. Ishai, whose stitches have since been removed and now has a scar on his forehead that may never fade, is just starting to open up about all the bad things their father did to them. Both boys agree that he was uneasy when he was sober and mean when he was drunk. Neither one of them has expressed a desire to go home anytime soon.
Owing to their childhood traumas, the brothers suffer from behavioral problems, short attention spans, learning disorders and low self- esteem. Tal is undergoing animal therapy on Neve Michael’s petting farm, where he is learning to overcome his insecurities by caring for a pet rabbit. Ishai, who has problems articulating, is starting to express how he feels through drawings in our art therapy program. Both boys are doing poorly in school but are adopting slowly. Our professional therapists say Tal and Ishai face long periods of healing and rehabilitation.
The brothers have now been incorporated into a family home, which consists of a married couple and their children who live in the Children’s Village and take in Emunah's Neve Michael children. For the first time in their lives, Tal and Ishai are experiencing what it’s like to be in a normal household with a warm and loving family atmosphere.
Last week, as they sat around the dinner table with their adoptive parents and the other children, Tal said he’s happy they are in Neve Michael, and Ishai echoed his brother’s sentiment. For the Emunah's Neve Michael staff, those promising words signify that the boys’ recovery is now underway.
A Real Emunah Hero Reaches for the Stars
Itzik Elstein, now 20, was a resident at Emunah's Youth Village in Pardes Chana, for more than 9 years. As Itzik settled into his new "home" he started to feel secure and loved for the first time in his life, helping him to believe in a future for himself. It is there, that he first began to set goals for himself, and to reach them.
As Itzik grew up, he dreamed of being a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. With that goal in mind, he set out to make his dream a reality!
At what age did you join the children's home?
"I came to the children's home in Pardes Chana, managed by David Fridman, at the age of 9 due to financial difficulties at home", he says.
"My mother made big efforts but could not maintain our home and support me, so at the beginning of fourth grade I was sent to the children's home.The difference between my former school and the children's home was significant for me. For the first time I received warm and personal attention. A counselor was in charge of every few children and was with us 24/7. Until that time there was no one who accompanied me on such a close basis. Even if my mother had wanted to, she had to work all the time, and this did not leave her much time to be with me. The fact that in the children's home everyone understands your condition and knows you turns it into a situation where everyone only wants to help. It was a very warm and enveloping system and I received everything I had lacked. Suddenly there was someone to help me with my homework, something I had never had. I received a home and warmth, mainly a sense of being at home."
"I cried out for help
Before I came to the children's home I had a tough time socially. I was an outsider at the school I attended and I was a trouble maker. Today I understand that this was was my way of crying out to everyone for help, and indeed when I reached the children's home I began to understand that this was exactly what I needed. At the children's home it was easier for me to fit in, I felt an equal among equals, I didn't feel inferior, and this gave me confidence and a foundation to grow from. In time I became an excellent student, to such a degree that I was given awards and praised before everyone, as I remember well. My first counselor during my first year is still an inseparable part of my life, at the children's home he was a type of father to me, and we have remained in touch to this day."
When did you decide to try out for the pilots' course?
"It developed gradually. I had been taken on delegations abroad to run half marathons on behalf of the children's home, so I learned how to persevere and meet challenges. When I received my call-up to the IDF I didn't know what I wanted to do, and when I was asked about my preferences I really had no idea. In addition, I'm a single child and I have no father so I could have received an exemption from combat duty. When I received the data from the first call-up, I understood that all the options were open for me, so I told myself that I have to make it to the pilots' course. It took me time to convince my mother and to receive all the approvals, but after the first selection process I decided that I'm going for it and there's no way I won't be accepted. I pulled myself together and aimed for the goal and I made it. When I reached the course I felt that I had already reached the goal, I didn't have the urge to finish the course and I decided to take a break and study in a Mechina preparatory program to better understand my goals. At the Mechina I learned a lot about myself and about the army, I understood what is really important, and after putting much thought into it I decided to apply for the armored corps, and I'm only starting out now."
Where do you live today?
"I'm in touch with my mother, but I have an adoptive family that accepted me very nicely and I live with them, something that is not to be taken for granted. Not every person is willing to open his home to a stranger, someone who is different, and they care for me as if I was their own son."
This article is a translation of the original article published by Kippa.
To read the full article in hebrew, please visit "Kippa": https://bit.ly/2Fw9sEa
Beautiful and talented Eden Nagado, a 17-year-old senior, will commence her 6th year at the Emunah Children’s Center in Afula in September. Eden’s father, an alcoholic, is serving a lengthy sentence in the Be’er Sheva maximum security prison, for domestic violence. Until recently Eden had no contact with her father but with the intervention of the Emunah team, she met him for the first time. The meeting was moving and empowering, and Eden has grown a great deal since then. She is a madricha of a local Bnei Akiva group and an outstanding young lady who has chosen life.
Eden has been learning to play the piano at the Emunah Center since she was 12. She is a very talented player and singer, and recently, with the encouragement of Yair Daniel, the director of the center, Eden has begun to record her own album. She also appears often with the Emunotes, Emunah Afula’s performing choir and dancing troup.