Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Shani Avigal, mother of six-year-old Ido Avigal from Sderot who was killed in the recent "Guardian of the Walls" conflict, is still healing from her painful loss. Yesterday she wrote me the following:
"I thought a lot about how to memorialize Ido, how he would want me to memorialize him. I thought about the value of friendship and that it was sometimes difficult for him to connect with others. Whether in kindergarten or on a playground, he would play alone and find it difficult to participate in group activities. I thought that if there had been a 'friendship bench' at his kindergarten, that could have been most helpful to him. The idea is this: If it is difficult for a child to connect, he can simply sit on the bench and others can approach him and ask him to join their game. If children argue amongst themselves, they can also resolve their argument on the bench.
The idea began with one bench at his kindergatrten and has now spread to schools and even public parks. A number of cities have already ordered these benches in preparation for the coming school year. The feedback I have been receiving is tremendous. The benches simply help children who are socially isolated or otherwise in distress. Every night before bed, Ido would share with us what happened to him that day and said that he always made sure to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.' Therefore, this is what is written on the bench."
As Tisha B'Av is almost here and we become aware of what is missing and what we need to change, I wrote Shani that perhaps a bench like this is needed for adults as well.