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David Greaves with Israeli children at camp


David Greaves and family at the Kotel for his father's Bar Mitzvah !


Giving a bracelet his daughter Nesya made


Lev Echad camp in bomb shelter

 
HAVING AN IMPACT JUST BY BEING THERE: DAVID GREAVES'S STORY OF VOLUNTEERING TO WORK WITH CHILDREN IN THE SOUTH OF ISRAEL DURING WAR-TIME

by Rhonda Spivak, January 18, 2015

 

 

 

 

This past summer in Israel  David Greaves  saw first-hand how a Hamas missile attack tramautized his own children when he was driving his family  to visit  friends north of Tel-Aviv.   This experience became a "catalyst" for his decision to return to Israel during war-time to volunteer to help children living under constant rocket attack in the South of Israel.

 

 

Greaves and family had originally gone to Israel on Chai's 50th Anniversary trip and experienced the rocket attack when he was travelling with his family following the Chai trip.

 

 

"At first I heard something but didn’t realize what it was and then I noticed cars screeching to a halt and people running out of their cars and huddling together up against a building. ... I stopped our van, left it running and I said kids we have to get out. My father who was in the very back of the van climbed over all the seats and we ran from our vehicle. When we got out of the van we could really hear the wail of the sirens... Nesya was crying hysterically and Aaron was visibly upset," Greaves recalls. "We huddled with strangers and witnessed the Iron Dome intercept the Hamas missile.” Later that night his children slept with him and his wife in their parents' bed as they were too afraid to sleep alone.

 

 

 

When Greaves returned to Winnipeg he  began thinking how Israeli children managed to live under the threat of daily rocket attacks, "If my kids were horrified having experienced this once, how did the boys and girls of southern Israel live with this every day?" Greaves wanted to do something to help these children and show support for Israel. Thus, on his return to Winnipeg he decided to obtain a leave of absence from work and  go back to Israel to volunteer for an organization called Lev Echad (One Heart), which  ran community centres in southern Israel to support kids and their families. 

 

 

 

As Greaves explains, "Formal camp had been cancelled and families were not going to send their kids to camp while the rockets were constantly flying, so all the kids in the south were stuck at home all summer. As a result, Lev Echad brought camp to the kids."

 

 

Greaves went to volunteer  for a week with Lev Echad  in Kiryat Malachi, located some 30 kms from Gaza, where he was told "that many people who come here to volunteer can only handle a day or two.”

 

 

Lev Echad was run on a shoestring budget and before he left Greaves decided to send an email to 30 people, close friends and family to ask for their support. "Little did I know that this email would be forwarded on to friends and family of my friends and family and before I knew it, I was receiving money from people I barely knew and in 3 short days, I raised in excess of $16,000."

 

 

 

Before he left Greaves remembers "telling my kids that I loved them and that they were the most important thing in the world to me and I apologized for having to go but I told them that there were kids that needed me to take care of them and that those kids would be happy that I was there. I told them that I would tell all the kids in Israel about them."

 

 

 

Greaves was of course, anxious and nervous to go down south, and when he arrived at a housing complex full of kids aged 2 -10, he saw a sign in Hebrew "Mi She’mitnadev, Loh M’fached “(Those that volunteer are not afraid). 

 

 

"Little did they know that I was terrified," Greaves says candidly, recalling how excited people were when he showed up with lots of art supplies, and other items. 

 

 

Most of the other volunteers with Lev Echad were 17-18 years old and they would volunteer for a few hours and then go back.

 

 

 

"When Israelis learned that I was here and sleeping on the floor in the community centre, they were speechless," Greaves recalls. "I soon started to believe that I was going to have an impact just by being here.”

 

 

 

"Later that day I was playing soccer with a few of the kids in the courtyard when the siren started and I froze... you have about 30 seconds to get to a shelter. As a volunteer you need to make sure that all the kids are accounted for before you shut the big iron door...While I was doing my final check, my new buddy Idur, an 8 years old soccer fanatic and one of the sweetest kids, grabbed my hand and said "Dayveed L'miklat” (David, to the bomb shelter).

 

 

I am not sure if it was because he saw terror on my face or that I looked so stunned and didn't realize that everyone was already in the shelter and I was the only one on the outside but I was touched. I had come all this way to take care of the kids and they were actually taking care of me. Needles to stay I stuck close to him for the rest of that day."

 

 

Greaves went on to develop a close bond with Idur, whose face lit up when he saw him the next.

 

 

Greaves says "I found myself in the bomb shelter more times than I can remember." As a result of living in a war zone, Greaves begun to to suffer from stomach problems "because of my nerves."

 

 

 

As he recalls "I couldn’t relax. I could only sleep a few hours a night and couldn’t wait for the morning to come. I was afraid to take a shower and even have the bathroom door closed for fear of not hearing the alarm. I started to wonder how people can live like this every day, and kids under the age of 14 have lived their whole life with this rocket reality - how could they live this way?"

 

 

He began asking this question of the families who lived in the South and learned that for the children "in the evening all the demons come out," as parents told him that "Most kids can’t sleep alone. Many kids are wetting their beds well past the age of that being normal." 

 

 

Greaves's time in Kiryat Malachi "had a profound impact on him". 

 

 

 

"As I looked at my life and the comfortable box I live in, I was amazed by the resiliency of the Israeli people...  These families were not leaving, they were staying put to defend their homes.... The bonds I developed will forever impact my life… What we did, was to provide a very much needed distraction from the rocket reality these kids and their families live with every day."

 

 

 

Before leaving Greaves wanted to offer support to the IDF soldiers and their families. Greaves met with a representative from Israeli Defense Forces, Widows and Orphans fund. “I was told to meet with Daniel Tukser because the work that this organization does is among the most difficult, as the name would suggest. 

 

 

This past summer, included with the soldiers that were killed, this Fund was notified of 10 new widows and 25 new orphans.

 

 

Because of the generosity of many from our community we were able to send 6 of those kids to an amazing camp over Sukkoth," Greaves says.

 

 

 

"I was told that when these kids get together, they become their own support system; often asking each other how their father was killed and when."

 

 

Greaves went to visit soldiers and their families at Soroka Hospital in Be'ersheva. 

 

 

"My daughter Nesya made rainbow loom bracelets for me to give the kids and soldiers while in Israel.... A red and white bracelet representing Canada, with a blue elastic in the middle representing Israel to show Canada has surrounded it with love.

 

 

 

Greaves met "one soldier who had part of his face blown away and was inches from death... He had just been fitted with a prosthetic orbital and cheek bone.  He received Nesya’s first bracelet. Although he was unable to smile or speak, his mother put the bracelet on with gratitude."

 

 

 

To connect with David Greaves, he can be reached at his new company, Protexia, at: david@protexia.ca

Greaves will also be sharing his volunteer experience in more detail as a presenter at the upcoming Limmud program put on by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. 

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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