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Daily life at the Haifa Home

ICEJ AID PROJECTS

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23 Nov 2012 (All day)
Daily life at the Haifa Home

Over the past three years, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has established a unique assisted-living facility in Haifa that has become a special place of love and warmth for the dozens of Holocaust survivors who now reside there.

At the ICEJ’s Home for Holocaust survivors, residents live as family, sitting together for hours to talk, eat meals and enjoy community activities. They may have different interests, but they enjoy each other's company and the warm family atmosphere. Daily life at the Haifa Home can be full of little joys and surprises.

Shula the poet

Shula is a survivor originally from Poland who arrived at the Haifa Home very shy and timid, but now is very much settled and does her best to be a blessing to others. She has a great interest in writing and a special flair for poetry. Several recent poems she wrote for staff members at the home were a delight to all. Shula also penned a poem expressing her love and appreciation for Yudit Setz from ICEJ AID.

“I love Yudit every moment of my life”, said Shula. “She is an angel, a wonderful person!”

Recently, Yudit delivered a batch of letters and cards to Shula from caring Christians and spent some time reading them with her. Shula appreciated it very much to receive greetings from abroad. Her son lives in the United States and she rarely sees him. “It is hard being without family”, she said.

Sarah the art lover

Most residents gather in the dining hall for lunch. One day after the meal there was a surprise visitor. Dutch painter Marc de Klijn, himself a Holocaust survivor, came by and delivered six new paintings to the Haifa Home. He and his wife had previously visited the residents to assess their levels of artistic talents.

“Everything in this Home inspires me”, he said while presenting the works of art. “I decided the paintings would be cheerful and express happiness and depict the hope of Jewish people who are coming home. The most important one is ‘Petah Tikvah’, referring to the ‘door of hope’ through which the people want to enter.”

Haifa Home resident Sarah was thrilled with the gifts of art.

“The paintings are so beautiful and colourful and they make me feel happy”, she said. “They are wonderful as they symbolize the hope for the future.”

Sarah has been at the Home for Holocaust Survivors for one-and-a-half years and shared her feelings about living there.

“In the beginning it was a bit hard for me because I find change difficult. But it’s good now, as no one suffers here”, she explained. “Elderly people usually only speak about their sicknesses and compare who has the most pain and aches, but here there is a lot of humour. Not that you always feel great, but it’s better to laugh than to cry and doctors also say that it’s healthy to laugh.”

I go as little as possible to the doctor”, she added, chuckling at herself. “It is good to do some exercise and so I walk every day and I do a crossword puzzle every day.”

Sarah also noted how nice it is to be part of a community and yet still have her own little apartment where she can be by herself when she wants.

Nahum the handyman

On another recent visit, Yudit Setz of ICEJ AID met Nahum outside the Home busily fixing some broken chairs. He enjoys these kinds of jobs, fixing whatever his hands find to do! In addition, Nahum has made the garden his very own responsibility, including the daily watering of the plants.

He and his wife Clara have been in the Home for close to two years. At first they found it strange to move into a community living arrangement and never imagined that it would be so nice to live together with others. Clara can be found each evening enjoying a card game with one resident or another. They readily expressed to Yudit how happy they are at the Haifa Home.

Genia the big sister

Another dear Haifa Home resident is Genia, who was born in Poland in 1923 and was 15 years old when the Germans invaded. She lived at the time with her mother, father, older brother and younger sister, only eight.

Her father was immediately taken to a concentration camp and never returned. Her brother fled to the forests to join the Underground. Then her mother was sent to a forced labour camp. This left Genia to look after her little sister and the two were hidden by kind neighbours. About six months later, Genia got word her mother had died and the body was at the regional hospital.

“I travelled to the hospital to look for her and they took me to a big room where there were about 150 Jewish corpses”, she recounted recently. “I looked for my mother and finally discovered she was in a bag on a shelf. I ran home to bring new clothing and to clean and dress her, but when I returned to the hospital the room was completely empty. They told me they had buried everyone in one big grave. Until this day I have no idea where she is buried.”

Genia continued to raise her sister until the war ended and then moved to Israel in 1957. She started a family, but lost her son in one of Israel’s wars. Today, she lives in the Haifa Home.

“I am very happy with the warm care that I receive here and the wonderful things that the volunteers do for us”, she conveyed.

Fanny the recent widow

Fanny is still mourning the loss of her husband Isaac, who passed away in August, and she was so happy to receive a hug on behalf of the ICEJ family. She received great support as well from fellow residents at the Haifa Home when they came together for a moving memorial ceremony to remember Isaac. The special prayers and the love expressed were a comfort to her and their son and daughter.

When Isaac was only ten years old, he had avoided deportation to a Nazi death camp by convincing the German authorities that he could work like an adult. He worked in a steel factory for the length of the war while living in the Lodz ghetto in Poland. At night he would sneak off into the city to find food for his family.

Isaac endured terrible suffering, hunger and cold as a child, but somehow survived and immigrated to Israel at age 19. Later he met Fanny and they enjoyed a long, happy marriage together. When his health deteriorated, they were very thankful to be able to move into the Haifa Home, where Fanny will continue to live among a loving family.

Karol the amputee

Karol was sitting recently in his wheelchair in the garden under a shady tree when Yudit dropped by with a group of American women. They brought him and other residents beautiful quilts made by Jewish ladies in Nebraska who wanted to bless Holocaust survivors. Karol had to have a foot amputated due to diabetes and now needs a live-in caregiver. He often feels depressed and lonely. But the visit cheered him up.

“In this place I have found a home. I can never be grateful enough for it”, said Karol.

He is grateful because, although he has a sister in Israel, she is very sick and there is no other family to take care of them. So he appreciates visits from ICEJ AID staff and other Christian visitors sent by the ICEJ. Haifa Home director Shimon Sabag and his fellow residents also are a great comfort to Karol, who was born in Romania in 1941 and was deported to Ukraine when the war broke out. He and his family suffered from sickness, hunger, cold and severe persecution of Jews by the local population. Life indeed has been full of difficulties and pain for Karol, but he is now surrounded by caring people.

Benjamin the birthday boy

Finally, Benjamin has lived for two years now in the Haifa Home – one of its oldest residents. In October, he celebrated his 93rd birthday.

“Shimon gave me a nice party”, he recalled. “We had music and we sang songs.”

“When I turn 100, we will have a big feast. Shimon promised me”, smiled Benjamin.

He was born in Lithuania but left his native country before the Russians and then the Germans invaded. A refugee in Holland, he survived the Holocaust using forged documents. In 1946 he made aliyah to Israel on the illegal immigration ship “Tel Chai”, which managed to evade British patrol boats and arrive in the port of Haifa.

“I have problems with my hips, but a care giver comes and helps me. It is good to live here”, he assured.

Hopefully, Benjamin has many good days left at the Haifa Home and each one will be full of little joys and surprises.

To support the vital and compassionate work of the ICEJ at the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors, please donate on-line today at http://int.icej.org/aid/haifa-home-holocaust-survivors


 

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