by Mary Kelsey, UK
My husband Phillip, and I, have been supporters of Israel for many years. I am a prayer leader with Ebenezer Operation Exodus, helping Jewish people to go to Israel, and Phillip is a worship leader in our fellowship in Stratford-on-Avon, England. I adopted a Holocaust Survivor with AHI in November 2014 and we decided to volunteer in April 2015 and to visit my survivor with a teddy bear, a necklace and postcards.
When we arrived in Akko we were warmly greeted by Susan and our Russian translator, Ayana, who had applied to work with Ebenezer in Siberia! We knew this was a divine appointment! The atmosphere at Beit Shalom was wonderful. We immediately sensed the peace and presence of the Lord. We began every day with prayer and ended with worship, sharing Shabbat meals as a team.
Phil and I visited 27 survivors mostly in within walking distance in Akko, taking small gifts of toiletries, socks, flowers for birthdays and sometimes beautiful quilts made by American ladies. Ayana introduced us and we asked questions, which she translated. We were usually welcomed with refreshments. Most of the survivors loved music and were delighted when Phil played his guitar. We were able to listen to their moving stories and to give hugs and encouraging words e.g. from the psalms. Many welcomed prayer for healing or for their needs.
Most of the survivors came to Israel in the early 1990’s from Russia, Ukraine or Moldova. They had been children of the ghettos and lost most of their families. Some had served in the Red Army and had married and got good jobs such as engineers or journalists after the war. Many had carers or families to support, but others were lonely and isolated, especially if the flats had no access to a working lift.
The highlight of our visit was being invited to VE Day celebrations at the Music Conservatoire, where old soldiers were honored by the mayor and Russian ambassador. A concert was given by a well-known pianist and several couples got up and danced and a special lunch was held.
It was such a privilege to meet these courageous Survivors, to hear their stories and to bring some comfort to them in their final years. May they long be remembered!