“Throughout all their journeys, wherever the cloud lifted, they would set out but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out - until the day it lifted.” Exodus 40.36,37
On August 3rd, the cloud lifted, as a tribe we set out on a journey through eight gates into a place of new beginnings. Rabbi Sacks wrote that “first you have to build a future, only then can you mourn the past.” I find that his words ring true for our tribe for those who have wrestled with the shadow of death, with those who have fought for life, for those who are building their future. They are now able to stop and mourn, but then to keep going.
“August 3rd is the anniversary of our genocide. Honestly, Springs of Hope made a very, very beautiful activity, as long as I am alive, I will never forget your kindness from the first day that I arrived from captivity until now. Out of all the events that you have made for us, I have never experienced one with such beauty and healing power, this I will never forget.
Yes, we know that it is a hard day, it will always be in our hearts and our minds but you have shown us that life does go on and we cannot kill ourselves alive because of our dead. Thank you for working so hard to show us that there is a future and how to take hold of it. Thank you for helping to be our voice, thank you for showing us the way and for giving us a new beginning.”
Viyan, former soldier in ISIS.
Our annual memorial event, commemorating the Yezidi Genocide, which is still ongoing, with close to 3000 missing and unaccounted for, is usually a behind closed doors event, for our students. This year they requested that it be open to family members to which we readily agreed. It was hard though, our hearts broke and broke again as mothers, aunts, sisters poured through the Gate of Remembrance, which was opened by one of our rescued boys, holding pictures of their missing children, four, five, one, six. Women who live under the constant stress, day and night of worry for their children. One of our student’s mothers saw on display her first born son’s clothes. Eight years later, she picked up his shirt, covered her face trying to breathe in his smell, her tears pouring over the shirt as she tried to wear it, to bring him close to her.
Did she know, I wondered, that at that very minute, in the hours of this day, three of her four missing daughters had been identified, found and arrangements were being made, strategies laid in place to bring them across borders, home to her aching arms? We dared not try to comfort her with this info in case she did not know, in case there would, God forbid, be an ambush and the operation go wrong. She, and the others were the picture of Jeremiah 31: 15, 16; “A voice was heard, mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more. This is what the Lord says, “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears. Your children will return from the land of the enemy, so there is hope for your descendants, they will return to their own land.”
Gate of Remembrance | 2015
Gate of Hope | 2016
It was hard for these women to lay their deep mourning aside as we progressed through the Gates. I gently took clothes, and pictures from them as we moved into the Gate of Hope. I was reminded of how Abraham mourned for Sarah, his wife, but then he got busy, looking for a plot of land to bury her and looking to find a bride for his son Isaac.
As we went through the Gate of Hope, the atmosphere lifted, the colors changed, and the artwork reflected our journey from the tears and darkness of captivity to the freedom and joy in finding hope and future.
“Thank you, Miss Lisa, because in your hope, we find hope, I found hope and that made our pain less. You have given us hope instead of disappointment. Each colored door with its meaning was so personal and so healing for each one of us. Thank you.” Enas, former trafficked slave.