Oct 22, 2009

Bat-Chen's Hope for Peace Lives On

A few years ago, I became familiar with the life of Bat-Chen Shahak. Kar-Ben published the English edition of her diaries, which had been published in several languages already. Bat-Chen lived in Tel Mond, Israel, not far from Jerusalem. She was smart, sassy, and full of imagination. Her life was cut short when, on her 15th birthday on Purim of 1996, she was killed by a suicide bomber while while visiting Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center.

Bat-Chen's story is just one of thousands of children whose lives were lost because of war and terrorism. Her diaries reveal her uncertainties of the future, her feelings about the conflict going on in Israel, and her love of her family, friends, and her home country.

Today, her parents have established The Association for the Commemoration of Bat-Chen Shahak and travel all over the world, sharing Bat-Chen's story and working to fulfill her dreams of peace. They speak to students of all backgrounds about the power of keeping a diary, giving out copies of The Bat-Chen Diaries and a blank one to use as their own. This concept has been especially relevant to young people in southern Israel, who see it as a therapeutic aid in dealing with stress, anxiety and trauma which often are a part of these children's lives while living in the shadow of kassam rockets and unrest.

Bat-Chen's story has been deeply felt in Tel Mond's sister city, Sarasota, Florida. One of Bat-Chen's drawings won an annual art contest there, and it was enlarged to billboard size and appeared in a city-wide exhibition. The topic of the drawing was her family and was drawn when Bat-Chen was only 12 years old. In honor of the new year, a copy of the huge enlarged picture arrived in Tel Mond and is on permanent display at an elementary school.

Bat-Chen's story proves the power of writing and imagination, even that of a young person, can live on after one's death.

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