by Susan Heagy
Holocaust Survivors in Israel total about 189,400 as of a census taken toward the end of 2019. The number fluctuates each year as some make Aliyah to Israel- and others make their final journey to their eternal rest. These last numbers are increasing.
No matter the number, all of them are rapidly aging. Their lives are changing drastically, sometimes from day to day. Physical ailments, declining cognitive abilities, no family to help, limited resources and increasing loneliness and depression. For Survivors, aging is not graceful.
Our role in assisting Survivors has changed with each year. Sixteen years ago we were visiting, fixing their homes, having concerts and events for them, laughing together and enjoying the company of volunteers. We had begun our Adoption program and the letters brought them great delight.
The last half of 2019 we lost several of our special friends. The beginning of 2020 saw an increase in doctor appointments, oncology treatments and surgeries. When the lockdown due to Coronavirus came we began calling Survivors to encourage them, pray for them and let them know they were not alone. We sent them notes by post of encouragement and continued sending the important letters from Adopters. Now in five months, six have been buried. There is a deep sense of sadness among them. Their joy is fleeting and their smiles are rare.
It has been difficult for us- first locked in our homes, thank God we could call them. But when there were needs, such as groceries or picking up prescriptions, we were unable to help. Our van was totaled by the insurance company and now we do not have enough resources to replace it. (See “A Desperate Need…”) In addition we cannot take them for doctor appointments. We now utilize bus and taxi as needed.
But even more than these difficulties is a situation which is threatening the final years of alone Survivors even more. As they become physically and mentally unable to stay alone, with no family, many times they are given a caretaker (metapelat) for a few hours a week. This often works well, for a time. But there is a limit of caretakers available and when an increase is needed, it is not provided.
The next step has been for the government to make these Survivors and elderly wards of the social service system. The Survivors can be taken out of their home and put in a nursing facility of the government’s choice, without consulting the Survivor. This can result in confusion and fear, dredging up old memories of the Holocaust.
We are currently trying to be one step ahead to help Survivors make their own next choices and arrangements. We would prefer to help increase their hours of caretakers so they can remain in their own homes. But it is paperwork and government choice. All we can do is the paperwork and follow up
Two solutions have remained on our hearts and minds:
1. Beit Shalom Community- independent living to those who would benefit and are falling through the cracks of the system. The way forward is slow.
2. Shayfa Tikva Metaplot (Abundant Hope Caretakers) under the umbrella of our non profit. We would train caretakers and provide the additional hours needed for those Survivors at high risk.
Recently one of our Survivors we were assisting to choose a nursing home was suddenly relocated from his home, without notice. He has been calling, frightened and uncertain, asking for our help.
Establishing one or both of these would alleviate such an event. Our help would change their lives in dramatic ways. We are leaning into these needs with prayer. Please pray with us for breakthrough and assistance chosen by God.
Please help make the Survivors’ last years peaceful, not in depression and anguish.