The group had discovered they would meet with the PM and his wife, Sara, only hours before. After waiting for an hour as members of the prime minister’s security force checked the room, there was a hush. Then the doors opened, and Bibi and Sara, as they are known in Israel, walked in.
The Prime Minister met with the 14 teens and their parents for 20 minutes. He and the young adults introduced themselves, Israel’s first couple spoke with each individual. Netanyahu then welcomed the group.
"This is your home. We are all together," he affirmed as he acknowledged that he was inspired by each of them. "If you can overcome your struggles, I can help Israel overcome its struggle."
The teens listened enthusiastically before peppering Bibi and Sara with questions that ranged from governing the state and Netanyahu’s goals for the next election to life as the prime minister and living life in the public eye.
"From a parent’s point of view, it was overwhelming," said Lana Steiner, who is traveling with her daughter, Simi. "We were grateful he took the time to speak with every child in the room."
Ali Wolf, whose son Adam is confined to a wheelchair, described the meeting as "Beyond amazing.
"My son sat right next to him. They had a whole conversation," she marveled.
When the prime minister left the room, it was as if a wind had swept through. Both parents and teens knew they had been part of something very special.
To Mrs. Steiner, this was another highlight of an already extraordinary experience. She can see the changes in her daughter. "My daughter’s condition causes fluctuations in her blood pressure. Two or three days a week, she just can’t function. On this trip, she’s been perfect. There’s something in the atmosphere that affects her in such a positive way."
Mrs. Wolf agrees. "Adam is on such a high. Many of the kids know each other from Camp Simcha. Now he’s become friends with everyone. Really, the kids are becoming their own family. And I can’t imagine that all these people weren’t part of my life all this time."
HISTORIC TRIP OFFERS A NEW DYNAMIC TO THE REGULAR "TEEN TOUR."
Wish at the Wall was originally geared towards teens who had completed treatment for cancer. It symbolized the end of their ’sick lives’ and the beginning of a new, post-treatment era for them.
"Four years ago, we realized that the program was equally important for teens who will be ill their entire lives but who wanted and needed a way to mark their move from teenager to young adult. Because of their medical needs, regular teen tours were out of the question. Chai Lifeline was the only organization with the ability and experience to care for their medical and social needs," explained Rabbi Simcha Scholar.
Wish at the Wall is also the only trip that invites each young participant to experience Israel with a parent.
"It’s an extraordinary dynamic," said Rabbi Shlomo Crandall, director of Chai Lifeline Midwest, who travels with the group. "Parents see their teens striving for independence and thriving on being treated as normal kids who happen to have an illness. They realize that even those who will be dependent on assistance for their daily needs for the rest of their lives can have a high quality of life. They see their children’s possibilities in a very real and concrete way."