It's been three and a half years since 10-year-old Avi left Gaza. But it was only recently that he escaped the memories and trauma of his abusive Arab father.
Avi's mother called Yad L'Achim's office recently to share the latest stage in her son's rescue. She related that, when they lived in Gaza, he not only endured very serious abuse at the hands of his father but had witnessed the beatings she was subjected to.
Though he was now living in Israel, out of reach of his father, as soon as he closed his eyes at night, he was "back there." The images of violence and abuse that filled his mind were so vivid that he broke out in cold sweats. He routinely woke up with nightmares and couldn't go back to sleep. He feared that his father would find a way to get to him.
The breakthrough came with the help of a "big brother" that Yad L'Achim provides many children survivors. The big brother provides a much-needed father figure, a friend to hang out with and a tutor to help with homework.
Avi's big brother spent many long hours talking with him about what he'd been through. He calmed the boy down and helped him understand that he was safe, that his father was in Gaza and could no longer harm him. He explained that the youngster need not be afraid because he has a Father who looks after him day and night. He gave Avi a small volume of Tehillim, which the boy put under his pillow as a reminder that G-d was watching over him.
"That very night after receiving the Tehillim Avi slept through for the first time in years," his mother related in a tearful phone call to Yad L'Achim. "He slept peacefully, like a baby."
The mother added that Avi was also calmer during the day and that the regular meetings with his big brother added vitality and joy to his life.
She expressed her gratitude to Yad L'Achim for launching the big brother program and for continuing to watch out for her and her children, years after helping to orchestrate their rescue.
"You have no idea how much it means to us to be taken on outings and to go away for beautiful Shabbatons at hotels," she said. "Thank you for continuing to provide each of my children with physical and spiritual support."