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Swimming in Memory: One Family's Strength

Tags: Inclusion, Israel Engagement, Rachel Moore

By Rachel Moore

On Friday, June 5th, women from all over Israel will join together to swim the Kinneret. The Swim4Sadna is not a race; it’s a personal challenge that empowers each participant and brings people together - in many different ways.

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Rivka Frankl, a 15 year old student at Ulpanat Nov in the Golan, has grown up hearing about the Swim4Sadna event in Gush Etzion. This year, which has been an extraordinarily difficult one for her, she decided that she was going to join the swim.

Rivka lost her mother Stella Frankl to cancer in the summer of 2013. She has watched her father, Yarden Frankl, an avid marathon runner, and popular blogger (Crossing the Yarden) use both of those outlets to help him keep his family - and himself - together through the many challenges.

It is clear that Yarden’s children have gained strength from his, and have internalized his means of getting through tough times.

“I am a lot like my Dad” Rivka says, “I have always been a dancer, and dance has been my exercise, my way of coping.”

Last year, in the throes of his difficult loss, Yarden met Gilly Asaraf, a mother of two and Olah from Beit Shemesh, with whom he has a lot in common. “A friend posted Yarden’s blog on facebook, and what I was reading sounded just so much like what I had written on my personal computer years before” says Gilly. Gilly’s husband lost his battle to cancer in 2006. An Israeli, he had a wish for his two young daughters to be raised in Israel. So, six months after his passing she made aliyah on her own with the two girls. With an athletic childhood as a competitive swimmer, Gilly also used exercise, running as a way of coping with tremendous loss and pain.

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Gilly and Yarden eventually met - and then married earlier this year. It has been a big adjustment for their children as well as for them, and everyone is doing their best to forge a new reality.

Rivka knew that before taking up running her new stepmother had been a very serious swimmer her entire childhood and came to her with an idea: “When I was at the Kinneret recently, a friend mentioned the Swim4Sadna and I thought it would be a great thing to do...Then I thought about how Gilly would love to do it too.”

Rivka says that it took time to get used to having a stepmom and two stepsisters move into her house, but that she always knew that it would be “good for Dad, and for the rest of us too. Especially my little brother, who lost his mom when he was only 11.”

Rivka and Gilly plan on working together to raise the 2000 nis they each need to enter the swim, relying on Yarden’s (and his great reach on the internet) help.

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“Rivka’s mother, Stella, was always giving to others. It was what she was known for,” says a local friend and neighbor. I cannot think of a better way for Rivka to pay tribute to her mother than helping others while bonding and connecting to her stepmother. It is so, so beautiful, and Rivka’s way of seeing the world is clearly a special gift from both of her parents.”

Gilly and Rivka are both very excited to participate in the swim. “It is a great cause; we are doing something to help others, and we are doing it together. I’m really looking forward to it. “ Says Rivka.

Gilly adds: “Rivka is a wonderful, emotional, affectionate girl. I love her, and I just loved the idea when she came to me with it. We are both looking for opportunities to connect, helping build our relationship. This is going to be such an amazing one.”

Rivka wrote this on her wall on Facebook on Sunday:

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Don't feel bad for me on mother’s day. Be jealous. I had the most incredible mom in the world, I have numerous mothers that help take care of me and raise me, AND now I have the greatest stepmother you could ever ask for. So its safe to say that I'm very much blessed in the mother department. Happy Mothers day to ALL my mothers I love you all
— feeling blessed.

The sixth annual Swim4Sadna will take place on June 5th at the Chof Tzemach Beach. There are two routes to choose from – a 3.5K (about 1 mile) and a 1.5K (about 2.1 miles), each starting at different beaches along the Kinneret, and both ending at the same spot.

The swim is a fundraiser for Sadnat Shiluv b'Emunah, a nonprofit organization located in Gush Etzion that promotes personal empowerment and inclusion for children with special needs. Called "the Sadna" for short, the organization includes a special-education school for children with various disabilities, aftercare programs, an agricultural farming program and assisted living communities. This year’s swim is raising funds for a vocational kitchen at the Sadna, to help students learn how to prepare meals for themselves, and others.

Check out Rivka and Gilly’s personal fundraising page for their campaign HERE.

To read this blog in Hebrew, click HERE.


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