Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Blessing of a Broken Heart

Sheri Mandell has written a book of spiritual healing, “The Blessing of a Broken Heart,” the story of her young son’s stoning death by Palestinians in Israel in 2004. It is her story and how she was able to survive that terrible day when he was found dead, along with his friend, in a cave near the mountains they lived by. The book has become a play and the one woman show came to a theater in my hometown. I was told by a friend not to miss it, and since I am interested in all things related to a child’s death and the parent’s survival, I went to see it. It is a hard play to say you ‘enjoy.’ No one can even imagine a child being bludgeoned to death, but we know that when God closes one door, he opens another, as I will explain.

Sherri married an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, and moved to Israel, where she fell in love with the land and its people. Her son, Koby, had ditched school that day with his friend and they went into the mountains, where, before that day, he had always been safe playing. Why they decided to ditch school that day, no one will ever know, and why this happened to them will always be another unanswered question. But it did happen and Sheri thought at first, like we all do, that she would never survive her son’s death.

But hope, determination, her love of God, and the will to survive helped herself, husband and other children through the tragedy as it eventually does to most of us. We will never forget our children, but we can do things in their memory and to always remember with love. For Sheri, she eventually noticed that because she lived in an area of the world that was always under siege where no one was safe from terrorism, there were many children who had lost parents in these wars, and many parents who had lost children. She was able to start a foundation which runs healing programs for families that have been directly affected by terror in Israel, having lost an immediate family member to a terrorist attack or an act of war. The foundation sponsors Camp Koby, its flagship program, for children who have lost a parent or a sibling in an act of terror in addition to Mothers’ Healing Retreats for women bereaved by terrorist violence and similar retreats for widows who have lost a husband to terror of war. The site is . Her blessing: to move on with her life and do good things in her child’s honor.

The play brought back many of the same feelings I had after losing my daughter, and I felt I could identify with her feelings of frustration as to why this happened to her and to her son. It was a senseless tragedy as was my daughter being killed by an impaired driver. I would encourage you to get a copy of the book (same title as the play) and read Sherri’s story.

The book has won a National Jewish book award and translated into three languages. Sherri has also won many other awards for her writings and speaks around the world on grief, bereavement and healing. She continues to live with her husband and other children in Israel, where she also teaches writing and works as a pastoral counselor.


  1. I am so happy to see a book like this on the market. I work with mothers that recently lost children for whatever reason. So many now from suiside and overdose, and they need assurance that there can be purpose, passion and joy again as time passes. The only people that can make that seem like a true possibility are the people that have also walked that path. Thank you for your gift.