Change Region:ICEJ

A partner with compassion

The moving story of Shimon Sabag

Printer-friendly versionSend by email
Posted on: 
8 Apr 2013
A partner with compassion

The Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors has become a major project of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem over recent years, as we urgently seek to aid and comfort those who endured the Nazi genocide campaign but today are struggling with medical, financial and emotional challenges late in life.  We have shared the incredible stories of many of the survivors who live in the Haifa Home. Yet Shimon Sabag, the founder and manager of the home, has his own dramatic story to tell of how he came to care over these precious lives.

In the early 1990s, Shimon was advancing quickly in the business world and held a senior management position in one of Israel’s largest supermarket chains. He was well-liked and trusted by colleagues with both finances and personnel management, and thus fit the idea of a ‘company man’. Yet already then, he felt in his heart that he was blessed and prospering so that he could bless others. So with the grocery chain’s ample resources at his fingertips, Shimon was very involved in helping the poor.

However, everything changed in 1993. On his way to a meeting, Shimon’s driver fell asleep behind the wheel and the vehicle went flying off the road. Shimon barely survived the accident. His collar bone and four disks in his spine were broken, and his skull was fractured. Doctors told him to be glad he was alive, but not to expect much more than that. The diagnosis was that he would be paralyzed for life.

What the doctors did not take into account is that Shimon called upon the name of the Almighty, believing He is a God of miracles. Shimon prayed that if the Lord would allow him to arise once again, he would serve the needy among his people for the rest of his life.

Not long after the accident, Shimon tried several times to get up from his bed, at first in his own strength. These attempts resulted in further injuries, so the doctors ordered the nurses to keep a close eye on him. But Shimon would not give up!

After reading from the Psalms and being encouraged by the amazing story of David, he prayed for strength for one last attempt to stand up. Yet he knew that if he fell again, he could cause further irreversible damages to his spine.

As he arose from the wheelchair and stood on his own two feet, the first words that came out of his mouth were Yesh Elohim! (“There is a God!”)

He walked over to the nurses and repeated the same powerful words: Yesh Elohim! The astounded nurses responded joyfully with the same words, but immediately led him back to his bed.

After this incredible moment, Shimon started the long path to physical recovery. Today, he has been legally recognized with a 100% disability and thus will receive pension and insurance from the government for the rest of his life. But he has refused to sit idly by, especially since his spirit was soaring with an undeniable sense that God’s hand was on his life. So he pursued his daily rehabilitation routine with great inner strength and determination.

As soon as he could move around independently, Shimon started seeking out ways to serve others. He opened a soup kitchen with his own money, which soon expanded to include an after-school club where local children could get a meal and do their homework. In 2001, he officially launched Yad Ezer L’Haver, a charitable organisation to help the poor.

“I thank God to this day for saving me, and in a sense, I’m paying my dues to Him”, Shimon recently shared with great enthusiasm. “It’s almost like I’m a ‘prisoner of thanks’, but in a very positive way. Having this debt to God is my greatest joy.”

Shimon has been feeding the hungry and stretching out a helping hand to those in need every day for many years now. But one day something really hit him hard. In one of his soup kitchens, as needy people lined up to take numbers in order to receive some food, several of the elderly folks in line joked with each other that they already had numbers on their forearms, so they really did not need another one.

Shimon could not believe what he saw. Among those in the soup line were Holocaust survivors with numbers tattooed on their arms from Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Teblinka and other Nazi concentration camps.

So he started inquiring why they were not receiving support from the government and began fighting for their rights. But this legal struggle was rather intense for his body, and in 2005 Shimon suffered a stroke. The whole right side of his body became paralyzed again and his blood pressure was skyrocketing.

He realised he needed to slow down and not waste his energy on fighting the bureaucracy. Instead, as soon as he recovered and could move his right arm again, Shimon decided to establish a small home for elderly Holocaust survivors in the Haifa area. The project began in a modest building in the city’s Hadar neighbourhood where he could house 14 survivors. Yet his dream was simply too big for one person to handle.

So in 2009, Shimon approached the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem with a proposal to purchase the ground floor of a building next door in order to open a community kitchen for several hundred poor Holocaust survivors in the Haifa area. The ICEJ responded quickly with the needed funds and also proposed that the entire four-story building be purchased in order to house more survivors. Thus the expansion of the Haifa Home began.

When Nicole Yoder and Yudit Setz of ICEJ AID visited Shimon in Haifa for the first time, they immediately recognised that this was a unique and worthy project that deserved our attention. The next week, Dr. Jürgen Bühler, then the ICEJ’s International Director and now its Executive Director, visited the site and instantly adopted Shimon’s burden and vision for helping impoverished Holocaust survivors in this way.

“Some of my fellow Jews discouraged me from working with Christians”, Shimon recently admitted. “But I believe that we, as Jews and Christians, come from the same root. We share the same values. God brought us together, and today this work has grown so much and affected so many lives.”

“In Jewish tradition we say that if you save one life, you save a whole world. With that in mind, I believe the Christian Embassy has saved a multitude of worlds already!”

“I don’t want to hide this cooperation. I am proud of it!” Shimon assured.

“Shimon Sabag has proven to be an extremely honest, reliable, generous and compassionate partner in the Haifa Home venture”, responded Dr. Bühler. “Working hand-in-hand with him has truly been an inspiration, as we see his daily commitment to serving the neediest in society. And he has his own unique story to tell of how he overcame huge setbacks and became engaged in this charitable work. It is well worth sharing his life story with our constituency.”

Please partner with us to finish renovating the apartments where survivors are now living! And consider adopting one of these precious Holocaust survivors through regular contributions to their care and the daily operations of our Haifa Home. Donate on-line today


Share this: