Network helps victims of suicide bombings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 June, 2006, 12:00am

'No matter how someone describes it, you'll never understand even a thousandth of what it's like. My life changed forever that day. I want it back.'

Confined to her hospital bed for more than a month, 50-year-old Hilla's eyes radiate anger and distrust.

Standing near a suicide bomber who detonated his device in Tel Aviv's Central bus station in April, she was electrocuted and suffered a punctured lung, damaged intestines and paralysis when a steel girder penetrated her left leg.

Injuries notwithstanding, Hilla lives in a crime-infested Tel Aviv neighbourhood and works as a cleaner to support her three daughters while her husband serves a jail term.

Now she is unable to support her children and her employer is refusing severance pay, claiming victims of terror are government wards.

Enter the director of Israel's Victims of Terror Project, Rabbi Menahem Kutner, who is overseeing a network of more than 1,000 volunteers who spring into action after a suicide bombing.

In Hilla's case, they have secured a pro bono lawyer to challenge her employer and have granted her daughters a stipend until government money begins flowing.

With a worldwide network of 4,000 branches, Chabad - the Victims of Terror Project's umbrella organisation - houses one of Orthodox Judaism's largest sects. An offshoot of Hasidism formed in the 1700s, Chabad emissaries are widely known for messianic beliefs and outreach programmes aimed at Jews and non-Jews alike. There are seven branches in China.

Started in 1967, the Victims of Terror Project provides services to bombing victims and their families.

'The message is: We're here to help you; you're not alone. That's really important to families, especially in the first days,' Mr Kutner said.