Israel is no stranger to terror attacks, and unfortunately, many suffer the devastating and life-altering physical and emotional effects of these attacks even decades later.
The story of Gloria Riani, a terror attack survivor, is one we wish was never hers to tell.
An outstanding woman with a career working at the Hillel Yaffe hospital, a wife and mother to five children — she and her son's lives were turned upside down, never to be the same.
When she recalls that horrific day, Gloria cannot hide her helplessness and, in her own words, considers herself a "broken vessel," not just physically but mostly mentally.
Fortunately, Vision for Israel has had the immense privilege of providing Gloria and her family with financial aid for the holidays for several years, including the last Passover.
Gloria and her 17-year-old son, Doron, were injured in the bloody attack that took place on July 12th, 2005, at the entrance to the Sharon Mall in Netanya, and since then, their lives have become unbearable.
It was a hot July day, and Gloria was dealing with the mundaneness of life — trying to change her son Doron's dental appointment unsuccessfully.
So they decided to spend the gap in their schedule on a quick trip to the Sharon Mall near their house. Kids were on their summer break, and the mall was crowded with Netanya residents and hundreds of youth ditching the heat for a hangout at the mall.
It was then, when Gloria and Doron left the mall on their way to the appointment, that their lives changed forever. Gloria exited first and sat on a nearby bench beside a man as she took a phone call and waited for Doron to follow. From the corner of her eye, Gloria noticed her son, Doron, coming out of the mall as commotion stirred up.
"I heard shouts and commotion at the entrance to the mall, but I didn't pay much attention to it, and then it was as if the sky had fallen. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion; everything shook, and I was flung back a few meters. I found myself lying on the ground, feeling great pain in my right arm, and lying motionless next to me was the guy who sat down next to me on the bench. I tried to move him — he was dead. At this point, I tried locating Doron. The force of the explosion sent him flying in a different direction altogether. Despite the immediate commotion, I managed to see him calling to me.“
The attack at the Sharon Mall in Netanya took a heavy toll. The terrorist who blew himself up at the crossing near the shopping center was responsible for the death of four people and the wounding of 94 men and women.
Some of the injured were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Gloria and Doron were rushed to the Laniado hospital in two separate ambulances, but a short time later, Doron was transferred by helicopter to Hillel Yaffe Hospital due to his serious condition. Between operations, Gloria received updates on her son's critical condition, suffering severe injuries to his left leg, liver, lungs, and ears.
"Just when a mother should be by her son's side, this was prevented from me," she said. "There is nothing more frustrating than lying helpless, knowing that my Doron needs me, now more than ever — and I cannot save him."
The impossible burden of trauma
Many years have passed since then, but for the Riani family, it seems their lives have been frozen in time. Gloria and Doron, who were severely wounded, are still knee-deep in the healing process and daily struggles of that traumatic and bitter day.
"Life has become one big living hell", says Gloria, "from a normal and stable family, we have become a family struck by fate, living only to survive another day. We're stuck in a loop as a result of the attack. It feels like riding a non-stop roller coaster that jerks you from side to side, threatening to take down your whole family."
Not only has the healing process been grievous, but bureaucratic issues with Doron's national health insurance made life difficult and near impossible. While healing and suffering from severe mental damage, he was sent from one medical committee to another and had endless meetings to receive the care he needed.
"I lost a child. Although Doron was not killed in the attack, he is like the living dead. That's the only way I can describe it. We've reached a dead end, and I can't see a single ray of light in the dark", Gloria adds.
Although Gloria and her son were the only ones in the family injured in the attack, the lives of the whole family were permanently altered as well. She stopped working at the hospital and spent most of her time receiving medical treatments and caring for Doron. For the first two-three years after the attack, her husband, Yaakov, a taxi driver, had to run between the two hospitals in addition to taking care of their other four children at home.
The medical treatments required for her and Doron have brought the family to a dire state of poverty; she explained: "We've exhausted and drained our savings... we have been living on advances and loans. Medical treatments and equipment are costly... I would be lying if I said that suicidal thoughts do not arise occasionally. But then I think about the children and Doron and Yaacov, my husband; I know there is someone to fight for."
A glimmer of hope
Many people like Gloria and her son Doron barely made itout alive and whose families suffer greatly. Often, their cases get lost in the healthcare system, and this makes them feel like they are fighting to be seen and receive the help they need.
It is our mission to support the broken, the injured, and the traumatized and grant them the help they so desperately cry out to receive. Every care package filled with food, every gift card, and social event is like balm to a struggling family.
Healing comes in big and small ways; it's in the intentional look of compassion when you look the survivors in the eyes, it's in the gentle hug and smile, and the knowledge that they know that someone sees and cares about their pain.
Every year, VFI reaches out to numerous victims of terrorism through various social events and projects. These initiatives include providing care for families and individuals, awarding educational grants to students, offering special support to families in need, facilitating participation in summer camps for orphans, organizing workshops, and providing general aid.
If it wasn’t for the support from partners, donors, and friends like you — Gloria, Doron, and her whole family would still wonder whether someone recognizes their pain.
It is because of you that they know — we care.