[Scarlett, guest blogger]
“Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
Jeremiah 8:21-22, 9:1
“I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
“I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
God’s heart for His people.
I have found it a struggle to figure out how to adequately put into words what’s been wrestling around in my heart the past few weeks. Those of you who know me well know the special place in my heart that survivors of the Holocaust have always held, and know how eagerly I have been awaiting this opportunity to serve them. For some inexplicable reason, my heart has always felt a connection to theirs.
Connection aside, I want it to be known now that I realize this post is doomed for failure before I’ve even finished it… My words will never be able to express the depths of hurt and tragedy that the survivors experienced, because their hurt is not an experience I shared with them. It’s not part of my story. I will never be able to understand or express the depth of pain God feels in His heart for His people, His precious people, because my human heart is incapable of understanding the depths of the love God has for His children, Israel.
Again, not my story… I wasn’t there to see the twinkle in God’s eye or that beam of a proud Father’s face when He first created His people. I wasn’t there to see the intimacy they shared as they’ve journeyed through time together. I’m also not there to see His heart break every time they are mistreated. I can only read how He feels about it.
When I was little, I remember learning about World War II and Hitler’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish question. I learned about the concentration camps and ghettos, and I learned the statistics: 11 million people. 1.1 million children. 6 million Jews.
I read the many stories of horror and confusion and pain. I read about the fear and the questioning. I read about their struggle to understand where the Father was and their immense, immense frustration towards His silence as they suffered.
As I grew, I read just about everything I could get my hands on that talked about the Holocaust. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. Maybe I thought the more information I learned, the closer I would come to beginning to understand such a tragedy. That didn’t happen. The only thing I understand is the desperate need this world has for a Savior, the need to be rescued.
It seems like every textbook or journal I’ve ever read always ends with “…the German army surrendered May 8th, 1945 and the camps were liberated.” A basic “and they all lived happily ever after” of sorts to sum up the chapter. Victory. Rescue. Freedom. Finally. All is well with the world, right?
The survivors stories didn’t end just because the war did. The hurt didn’t just magically vanish. Antisemitism didn’t just all of a sudden disappear. Their lives continued; there’s more to the story that the textbooks don’t talk about. So, what happened after that? What became of these survivors?
In my mind, I had always imagined that these survivors immediately were swooped up, taken in and cared for by the rest of the world. I imagined them re-entering society as honored and respected people. Heroes. because that’s what they deserve. It’s the least we could do for a people who had suffered so much. But that’s hardly the case.
Many of these survivors woke up the day after liberation and found themselves without a home and without a family. Not a single possession to call their own. Their identities completely stripped from them. Hardly anyone from their religious group left to seek solace and comfort from, or to even share with in grief. Those who were children now faced a life without their parents, siblings, and extended families; they’d missed out on valuable years of schooling, they didn’t even have anyone to hold them or wipe their tears or assure them that they were safe and going to be okay… They had lost their childhood many years before.
Nothing…There was nothing. Not to mention the extreme post-traumatic stress that would take years of counseling to even begin to break down some of the lies and destruction of the work of enemy in their life. They were left to face a world and a culture that had only ever shown them hate. I can’t imagine the fear.
How do you rebuild a life from all of that?
How do you heal?
How do you forgive?
Is it even worth it to try?
A few weeks before I came to Israel, I was able to visit two concentration camps and see the ghettos of Poland and Germany that existed during the war. Auschwitz, where more of God’s children perished than any other camp, and Dachau, the camp that served as a model predecessor for all other concentration camps… Two places that will never be erased from my memory. While I was at Dachau, the museum on site had a short video that showed some film taken by Russian soldiers after the camp was liberated. As the camera panned over the bodies of the dead and the faces of those who had survived, a voice on the screen asked a haunting question that still begs an answer today:
“How do you make a new human being out of one whose rights had been denied him?”
I’m not sure how you answer that. What I do know, however, is that the human spirit is strong. It flourishes even after it’s been torn apart, humiliated, and beaten down to nothing. We keep on going. And, if you’ll let him, the Father can also begin to restore and heal your wounded heart.
That spirit is much of what I have seen in the time I’ve spent with the survivors since arriving in Israel. They have welcomed me into their homes and bravely and honestly told their stories. They’ve talked of their struggles to forgive and their journeys to heal. Some have had an easier time than others. They’ve proudly shown pictures of their children and grandchildren- evidence of a life and a hope that even the cruelest of circumstances couldn’t manage to take from them.
It is an honor to serve them.
What I wasn’t expecting to see was the state of poverty most of the survivors lived in. Many made aliyah to Israel after the war and were never able to escape the poverty that had met them in Europe. To this day the survivors are in desperate need of care. Their apartments are in disrepair, and they spend much of the day alone or, if they’re lucky, with a hired nurse. They still need someone to show them love… That’s where we come in.
If you feel a stirring in your heart to do something, please- do it.
Come to Israel.
Give up a vacation.
Take a week or a month or a year to honor and bless and serve a group of people that are dearly loved by God. A group people whose time left on this earth is limit
If you can’t come, write. Write them letters.
As you likely know, AHI has a “Adopt a Survivor” program where you can get paired with a survivor and send them letters from time to time. Believe me, they love it. And though it may feel to you like a letter is nothing, I can’t even begin to tell you how much it truly means to the survivors. You become their family. (And, yes, your pictures and cards will end up proudly displayed on their mantles and refrigerators right next to all of their other special treasures!) I’ve seen and heard about so many survivors moved to tears, shocked and amazed that someone who doesn’t even know them would take the time to remind them that they are loved and cared for. It points them to Adonai. It’s a priceless gift.
Lastly, I just want to ask that you would please pray.
Pray for the survivors, pray for Abundant Hope, pray for Israel, and pray for me.
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