Day Two – Talmidim
Community Hall Restoration Continued:
Today we returned to the Community Centre to finish the painting and clean. We hand painted each security bar on the windows white and cleaned the windows to the point that they were actually transparent. Five young men were sent to assist with the clean up and planting of new trees in the front yard. One of the young men named Dan was very friendly and shared his music with us through his phone. Dan’s mandatory military service is quickly approaching and he is looking forward to completing his service and hopes to become a doctor. Dan’s spoke English with a clarity that was somewhat surprising. He had learned some from a cousin that lived in California for a brief time as well as from TV.
The highlight of todays work was the Star of David that Trevor and Julie had painted on the front of the building. This was no small feet as the wall far from smooth and the paint was oil based with a tendency to run. When finished they added two blue strips and a white background; resembling the Israel flag.
We must have done an acceptable job as the Vice Mayor and several others joined us for a picture that will be placed in the local paper tomorrow. The Vice Mayor then asked us to say a few words that he recorded on his I-Pad. We were told that children from the Community would begin to use this building right away now that it has been restored.
Holocaust Survivor Dinner:
The work crews returned home to beautifully set tables. We hosted a group of Russian, Polish and Ukrainian holocaust survivors. Dinner was prepared for their arrival at 3:30. Prior to dinner we met the survivors and took group pictures. The survivors were very happy to see us. Three of our team had stayed behind today to prepare the tables and food for the dinner. On each table there was a gift of chocolates as well as a bottle of olive oil. We ate with the survivors and through interpreters discussed their stories, why we were in Israel and why were we came from. After dinner a few survivors shared their stories and the group sang for us. There is one thing that every one story had in common the loss of a childhood and the journey from what was their homeland to the safety of Israel. These survivors left everything behind including professional vocations so that they could live in Israel; most could not work in their professions in Israel and accepted much lower positions in order to provide from their children and grand children. Having left their homeland most left their pensions as well. Israel’s government does subsidize some of their pension but it is not much to live off of. Most were close to retirement age when they came to Israel and were only able to work for a few years before mandatory retirement. Israel has a socialized medical system but it does not cover dental or some forms of cancer treatments. A lot of the survivors have cancer due to their proximity to Chernobyl. Medical and dental expenses force the survivors to go without treatment or another basic human need such as food. The dinner was amazing as the fellowship flowed freely even though the survivors could not speak English and we could not speak Russian or Hebrew.
The dinner was complete with the inclusion of the Helping Hand Coalition Andre Gasiorowski. Andre explained to the group that helpings hands represents to hands one that gives and one that receives. Tonight we all received love and gave it. One of the objectives of Helping Hands is to support Holocaust survivors by bringing them together, providing much needed financial and emotional support. Andre’s mother was a child that survived the Holocaust and his goal was to great an organization that would assist other survivors while ensuring the stories of survivors were not lost but shared and remembered by many generations.
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