"We were left alone with a big hole in our hearts." Yosef Hananel z"l (Photo: courtesy of the family)
Until less than a year ago, the lives of the Lev family from Moshav Mitzad in Gush Etzion were happy and beautiful. "We were an ordinary, happy and happy family, with five children," says Yonatan, the father, "We moved at that time, we had high hopes, we planned to be a house of hospitality. We couldn't believe how life would turn on us a month later."
It happened one fine day, when the youngest son Yosef Hananel Lev, only two years and a month old, entered the family pool in the yard, and in one moment of inattention - drowned. MDA medics who arrived at the scene performed CPR on the boy and evacuated him by helicopter to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, where doctors fought for his life for two days, but he eventually died.
"We were left alone with a big hole in our hearts, a bloody wound, a wound that had not yet healed. It's a heavy and unbearable burden, which even well-wishers will find difficult to overcome," says Yonatan. "After the death, a hospital social worker came to our house, and that was it. From that moment on, I, my wife and the remaining children were left alone in this unimaginable coping with the loss. The emotional distress we were in, which by the way still exists, is indescribable. It's like having an organ amputation on the soul without anesthesia or painkillers, to the point of undermining mental stability on the verge of total collapse."
Yonatan says, "Shortly after the disaster, my wife had to close the business she had built with her own hands for three years. She just couldn't function. We had to rehabilitate ourselves, go to mental health treatments so as not to cause long-term damage, maintain a home with children who also experienced unusual upheaval and dizziness, take care of their functioning in the educational institutions, take them to treatments. We are assisted by psychologists who specialize in bereavement and loss, who treat the soul so that we can move on with life. The entire rehabilitation process, which we are still in, we have to pay out of our own pockets. The state doesn't lift a finger and doesn't even try to help, facilitate, support."
The state provides assistance - depending on how the death occurred
The State of Israel does provide assistance to families after deaths, but it depends on how the death occurred. Military bereavement, and there is no dispute about this, entitles the families to close accompaniment and financial and psychological help over many years. When it comes to civil bereavement, only three types will receive help from the state: death as a result of homicide offenses, death in road accidents and suicide. The rest of the civil bereavement families, whether death as a result of illness or accidents at home or in their leisure time, are not entitled to any assistance or recognition.
In order to bring about recognition and change regarding families of civil bereavement, families who have lost loved ones to illness or other tragic circumstances came to the Knesset this week for three hearings in the Education, Health and Welfare Committees. This special day of awareness of civil bereavement is the result of the cooperation of the "Yakir Li - Yad VeLev for Civil Bereavement" association and former Minister MK Hili Tropper, who enlisted to help and try to change the situation through the legislature.
Founded the association. Pini Rabinovich, Desi's father, who died of cancer at the age of 19 (Photo: Gershon Allinson)
The association, which helps those families whose suffering is ignored by the state, was founded by Pini Rabinovitz, father of Desi Rabinowitz, z"l, who died at the age of 19 from cancer. In her short life, Desi's struggle with the public health system "led" to the inclusion of a "second opinion" in the basket of rights of patients in Israel. Her struggle began when the doctor who treated her instructed his department not to give her supportive care in the department he ran at Hadassah Hospital without his approval, due to the fact that Rabinovich decided to be treated by another doctor, Rambam Hospital. The initial investigation that brought Rabinovich's struggle to the health system to the public's attention was published on June 25, 1996 by Ronel Fischer in the Maariv newspaper. Following the publication, the Ministry of Health established a committee to examine the complaint and decided to file a complaint with the department director on charges of "negligence and misconduct of a doctor." In August 1998, a majority of the grievance committee ruled that "the conduct of the department director is inappropriate for a physician and that there is no doubt that his instruction had the potential for serious and even life-threatening bodily harm." Although the committee decided to settle for a reprimand, Rabinovich became a symbol of the patient's right to fair treatment and to receive a "second opinion" in the medical process.
There are thousands of families who don't have time to wait
"We in the association want to be partners in formulating programs to help families who are crying out for kindness," says Desi's father, Pini Rabinovich. "We submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Health to appeal to the health plan managements to issue a call for proposals and summon therapists with certificates who are certified to treat and join the database as independent therapists. This is a move that will help increase the number of caregivers in the State of Israel. We are all aware of the large queues at the HMOs when it comes to mental health treatments, for example, there are thousands of families who do not have this time to wait. If they don't get treatment right away, they'll fall apart. Caregivers who will not be able to work with the HMOs, we at the association will be willing to bear this burden as well and be the liaisons between the caregiver and the HMOs."
In addition, the families seek therapeutic responses in the education system for bereaved parents and siblings, as well as relief for students and appropriate accompaniment and training of teachers and lecturers to cope with loss and bereavement. In addition, the families seek to reduce the tedious bureaucracy for families who apply for assistance centers throughout the country, recognition of the families as families of civil bereavement, recognition of the day of death as a recognized day of absence from work, assistance in financing the tombstone, and establishing and mapping the Civil Bereaved Families Database.
Died suddenly. Kuti Liush z"l (Photo: courtesy of the family, Hui Liush)
"It is inconceivable to be abandoned after such a heavy disaster"
The story of Hui Liush from Jerusalem also illustrates the need to change the state's attitude toward civil bereavement. About a year ago, her 9-year-old son Kuti died suddenly of brain death. In the absence of regulations on the subject, Hui was forced to return to work on the day she finished sitting shiva on her son. "It's not clear how the country understands that a week after giving birth a woman shouldn't be able to go back to work, and the day after the swearing-in, especially in sudden cases like I experienced, I'm supposed to go back to work," she says angrily. Even student insurance doesn't cover a case like Kuti's. Not that there is anything that will ever compensate, but these are basic needs that cost a lot of money, in order to be able to live alongside such tremendous pain that I have no words to describe it at all.
"It is inconceivable to be abandoned after such a terrible disaster as we have experienced. No human being can move on with life immediately after the swearing-in. Sick or vacation days, defined by law, are also insufficient. And it's not just me, there are the brothers at home who need help, they've been through a huge upheaval."
Currently, waiting times for psychological treatments at the HMOs, for those who cannot afford private professional treatment, are long, and can sometimes last up to 9 months. In addition, even if the state does extend a helping hand, there are not enough caregivers. Combined therapies that have been found to be effective in treating children's anxieties and fears, such as art or horseback riding, also have long waiting times, and even when the appointment finally arrives, it is difficult to receive a continuum of treatment and due to the severe shortage of manpower, the treatments are spread out over too large intervals.
"Pini's initiative is a welcome step," says Hui Liush, "In the HMOs, it is difficult to find therapists who specialize in loss. With the salaries paid by the health plans, you can usually find less experienced therapists there. And that's before we even talked about the long lines and the limitation of the number of treatments. And then there is the lack of an accompaniment in educational institutions, for the brother of someone who died suddenly, or even for the classmates of a child who died suddenly."
"The responses we are requesting already exist today for families of national bereavement and in unique cases of suicide, euthanasia and road accidents. There are thousands more cases that are not being dealt with today in state institutions, and we came to the Knesset to change that," adds Pini Rabinovich, "A person who experiences bereavement is a person at risk and should be provided with appropriate assistance, accompaniment and support, in order to return him, as much as possible, to full functioning."
"There is hardly anyone who has not experienced bereavement," says LaValle! Health MK Hili Tropper, "The loss of a loved one, especially if he is young and if the death is sudden, is like a shadow that accompanies his family throughout life, but is hardly addressed on a systemic level. Civil Bereavement Awareness Day is intended to raise the issue and thus try to create responses that will help and ease the burden on those who have experienced loss."
- Road accidents