The Adopt a Family Foundation recently brought six teenagers and their coach, all victims of terror attacks in Israel, to San Diego for a week. As part of their visit, they played in a soccer tournament at San Diego Jewish Academy on Sept. 25 with local teenagers.
The event was done in collaboration with Rabbi Daniel Bortz from JTeen and the participation of Tzofi (Israeli Scouts). The purpose of the event was to continue to bring awareness of the situation in Israel, and to bring the community together.
Here the teenagers’ coach, Yaniv Peretz, shares about his experiences in Israel and San Diego:
What is life like where you live in Sderot, Israel?
Life in Sderot due to the security situation is very complex, full of challenges and difficulties. Words cannot describe how hard it is to grow up and raise a family in the city of Sderot.
Rockets fired from Gaza can happen anytime and anywhere. The sound of the Red Alert is heard all the time. Even when in a safe place, the sound of the Alert brings fears and stress. We have 15 seconds to run to a shelter, and that can occur while working, driving kids to school, shopping or playing.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
From the moment the siren begins the residents have 15 seconds to find a shelter from the rockets. These 15 seconds are crucial for your survival: the people who were killed by a missile in Sderot are people who have not found shelter on time.
My biggest challenge as a father of four children is to gather my children and find shelter in time. For example, when there is a siren in the middle of the night, my wife and I need to wake up and pick up the children and run for shelter. This is a huge challenge in 15 seconds
How has Adopt a Family helped you?
From the moment I got to know the organization, five years ago, the organization has supported me and escorted me personally in everything I need help with. The organization has helped me emotionally and financially. They have helped me pay my tuition for my academic studies.
The organization adopts families who are victims of terror. Once a year, the organization will host one of their adopted families for a week in San Diego. When the family returns to Israel they are mainly telling about the warmth and the love that they receive from the organization and community. It gives us strength and it makes us realize that people care.
We do not take it for granted and appreciate every bit of it.
What did this trip to the U.S. with the teenagers mean to you? What benefits do you see coming out of such an experience?
I believe that the trip to San Diego showed the boys a different world, a beautiful world, where people do not live in the shadow of fear from missiles. The trip took the boys from a frightened and unsettled place in Sderot and brought them to a safe place, which brings a big smile on their faces.
Here they feel safe, although it sounds simple and obvious. For them to walk the streets without fear from missile is a lot. The boys got to experience and see places that they will never forget. This was truly a life time chance and experience!
During this trip, we were able to meet the local community, families who hosted us in Carmel Valley and many families who got involved in the Adopt a Family Foundation project, in collaboration with JTeen San Diego. Our teenagers were able to meet teens from San Diego their own age. I believe that the relationship created between them will continue for years to come. This experience truly strengthen our bond with San Diego and Adopt a Family Foundation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adopt a Family Foundation, its board and committee, Rabbi Daniel Bortz from JTeen and the families who hosted us, and all those who accompanied us throughout our stay in San Diego.
The boys and I really appreciate this unique experience that was offered to us.