Through a complex logistical operation, a delegation of approximately 15 women, most of them Yazidi and a few Christians, arrived in Israel.
It’s a long distance and a world apart between Beit Shemesh, an Israeli city located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the horrific scenes in Iraq where Yazidis, an ethnic Kurdish minority, have been suffering atrocities at the hands of ISIS.
However, Dr. Yaakov Hoffman and Prof. Ari Zivotofsky, both Beit Shemesh residents, have taken on a mission to study the effects of genocide and to share Israeli know-how to help victims recover from the trauma.
Hoffman and Zivotofsky conduct their work at the psychology department of Bar Ilan University, located near Tel Aviv.
Through a complex logistical operation, they managed to arrange for the arrival in Israel of a delegation of 15 or so women, most of them Yazidi but a few who are Christian. Mirza Dinnayi, who heads a German humanitarian organization that treats Iraqi children and terror victims, was also part of the group that came to Israel this month.
The visit included a broad range of activities, including, for example, lectures at the university, a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, a visit to the famed Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on a bustling Friday afternoon, and even an experience in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday evening at the onset of the Jewish Sabbath.
In addition to the clinical sessions, the objective of the visit was to show Israel as a melting pot made up of Jews from diverse places and backgrounds, including those who survived the Holocaust. It is said that the Jewish connection to the Yazidis can even be traced to the forefather Abraham who, in the Bible, is called upon by God to leave what is modern-day Iraq to set out for the Jewish homeland, which is now the modern State of Israel, noted Chaim Friedman, a tour guide, also based in Beit Shemesh, who took the delegation on their Friday expedition.
The group also heard a lecture from Dr. Sharon Shalom, an Ethiopian Israeli, who survived the difficult trek leaving Ethiopia in the 1980s.
Zivotofsky says he became involved as a result of a visit to Kurdistan to do research on disappearing Jewish communities. He says that he acted on a request made by Hoffman, who was studying post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to help bring a questionnaire to Yazidi survivors.
Between the research and the visit to witness the Israeli experience, the hope is that Yazidis can be empowered by the obstacles overcome by Jews in forming their own state and running their own lives despite a history of persecution.
The vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Edwin Shuker, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, said it is important to relay the message that there is still much good in the world and that Israel is in fact a light unto the nations. Shuker was born in Iraq and is following the project closely.