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Support the Fund for Victims of Terror

Rona Amram-Nativ and Hila Gonen-Barzilai

Hila Gonen Barzilai // I Director of the Sderot Resilience Center

Rona Amram Nativ // Deputy Director of the Fund for the Victim of Terror

When you’re the director of the Sderot Resilience Center and the phone rings on Saturday, you answer even though you keep Shabbat. When Hila answered the phone, she thought that the caller was having a psychotic episode: “There are terrorists in my building, Hila,” she shouted. “The police aren’t answering me, nobody’s coming, please do something.” 

Hila doesn’t live in Sderot, but for many years the city has had a special place in her heart. Out of all the terrible scenarios that can happen in a terror-stricken city, Hila couldn’t imagine that there were really terrorists in the city, but when she saw a clip of armed terrorists riding a van through the city, and she received the official announcement from the Sderot emergency municipal operations room, she understood: this was something totally different.

In moments of horror, uncertainty and great fear, Hila and her team were the first to respond. They helped the residents process the dramatic events and treated those who had anxiety attacks, after being forced to cope with unfamiliar scenarios alongside the non-stop Qassam attacks on the city. 

From that day, thousands of Sderot residents entered the circle of trauma and required the support of the Resilience Center, and Hila travelled the country to reach everyone – those who remained in the city and those who were evacuated to the hotels, alongside patients of the Center who were coping with an event on an unprecedented scale.


In this impossibly horrific scenario, there are also rays of light. “The work with the Fund for Victims of Terror creates a special kind of partnership, which really strengthens the residents’ resilience,” Hila says. “Part of the resilience of the resident lies in the knowledge that the organizations responsible for their wellbeing work together, in coordination. We have a shared goal: To help the residents with their difficulties coping with life in an emergency security situation, out of a faith in the strength a person has to grow out of trauma. The women who lead the Fund, among them my friend Rona, are much more than colleagues – they are sisters of the heart, family, good friends. We know to be there for one another in everything, even when it’s difficult and overwhelming and also when we need to think together and to help the residents in creative ways. Today, despite the great difficulty that is still present, I’m optimistic. I believe in the strength of people and in our strength as Israeli society, that we’ll succeed in growing from these events. I’m convinced that this will happen if we will be together, united, even on the day after,” she concludes. 

Rona looked at the picture of the Kedem Siman Tov family and  ouldn’t believe it. Tamar, her husband Yonathan, their wonderful children Shachar, Arbel, and two-year-old Omer, were all brutally slaughtered at Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7. It was also the moment she understood: The world would be changed forever. “That picture could have been my picture, from my album, my home, with my children. To think that with such terrible ease an entire family could disappear, it simply broke me,” Rona, who had returned only three days earlier from a family trip to Central America, says. 

She came from the Garden of Eden to hell, and, when she recovered, she discovered that the rich experience she had accumulated in civil society could help thousands of citizens who in a single moment had lost those dearest to them. “This is how I became deputy director of the Fund for Terror Victims, and discovered wonderful women here,” she says. “This is also how I strengthened the connection with Hila, my good friend, who is really an inspirational figure. I discovered here that the team’s work around the clock, with all their heart and soul, together, with a terrible burden that I know they’re not used to. The understanding that we are doing something here that’s really important, and the knowledge that we’re succeeding in easing, even a bit, the suffering of people who lost so much that same day, is a ray of light amidst the great darkness,” he says. “If there’s something that we need to learn from October 7,” Rona concludes. “It’s to be thankful for being here. To hold close what is good. To feel compassion for our children, to hug them a lot. To remember to keep things in proportion. Life is so fragile.” 

The Jewish Agency for Israel

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