This past Saturday evening, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Petah Tikva played a soccer match at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem as part of the Israeli Premier League season. The hosting team won and gained an additional three points. But what made the event truly special was a ceremony held before the match for 22 children from bereaved families, who went on the pitch with players from both teams.
The ceremony was organized by the OneFamily Foundation and was the brainchild of Orit Mark, daughter of Otniel’s Rabbi Michael Mark, who was killed in terror attack year and a half ago. Orit personally asked Beitar Jerusalem player Yossi Benayoun (former Liverpool and Chelsea player) to hold the ceremony, and he accepted her request.
Mark, 18, is currently a volunteer with the OneFamily nonprofit organization that helps Israeli bereaved families. In her request to Benayoun she explained that her family of 10 siblings underwent a life change when a year and a half ago, on a Friday afternoon, “a car with terrorists overtook our car and sprayed it with bullets. My father, who was driving, Rabbi Mickey Mark, took most of the hits and died right away. My mother was severely wounded, hurt in her head (and still undergoes operations abroad). Two brothers were moderately wounded.”
Among the children who took part in the ceremony was Shay Kalangel, the brother of Capt. Yochai Kalangel, who was killed by an anti-tank missile in the Har Dov area near the Lebanese border. Also participating was Hagay Lemkus, brother of Dalia Lemkus, who was stabbed to death in a bus station in Judea.
At the end of the ceremony, the children, players and fans joined in singing Hatikva, Israel’s national anthem.
The Beitar Jerusalem management said in a statement, “The Beitar Jerusalem Football Club and its directors feel immense pride to host on its home turf the men and women of OneFamily Foundation.
“To see the tremendous mental power of the relatives of victims of terror attacks and to witness their joy of living, and their giving to all those around them gives us strength. We will be happy to stand by the association going forward, and to help as much as we can.”