Staring death in the face

In my previous post I shared about Rebecca, one of the Holocaust Survivors I am ministering to. None in the Israeli society embodies the widowhood of Israel more than these precious souls, so many of them still living in the torture of their memories.

We have been working with Rebecca for nearly a year now, and have been able to assist her with significant needs. Through the generosity of some of you, we purchased specialized telescopic glasses that enable her to do that which she could not do for a long time – paint, use her computer, read. We installed a small air conditioner unit in her home to ward off the unbearable heat of the Israeli summer.

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For years, whenever she needed to get her laundry done, Rebecca would stick this hose into the toilet to allow drainage. The washing machine was placed in a tiny little balcony on the other side of the wall. There was no hookup for water, and no money for a plumber either, so she herself dug a hole in the wall for the hose to go through, and when she needed to do her laundry, inserted the hose into the toilet.

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Most of the electric plugs in her home were dysfunctional, and not being able to afford an electrician, throughout the house she taped extension cords to the wall, so she could use all her electric appliances. These cords ran everywhere in the apartment – including her bathroom – so extremely dangerous!

Thanks to donations given to our Holocaust Fund, we were able to renovate her bathroom, making it safer for her to maneuver. The tub was replaced with a walk-in shower, the washing machine is now hooked to a proper drainage system and we brought in an electrician to fix all the wiring in the house.

רבקה שיפוץ

However, more than anything else, her greatest need has always been for companionship. For someone to come and talk, listen, and spend time with her. I took a photographer with me to document a short clip of her life story, this time we bring it to you with English subtitles.

In a few short weeks Rebecca will be celebrating her 87th birthday. Her greatest regret is that she has no legacy to leave behind. Nothing to show for all her years. So we are going to change that! Rebecca is a talented artist and poet. Over the years she penned dozens of songs and painted endless paintings. We are currently hard at work compiling a book of her creations – some of her poems, accompanied by her paintings. Our goal is to have the book finished and in print for us to present to her as a birthday gift. Work on the English version will follow beginning next month.

Join us in prayer for all the pieces to fall into place in time, so that we will indeed be able to bless her with this gift by mid June.

(If you’d like to read more about Rebecca please check out update #101 in our Updates Archive).

One of my heart’s desires where holocaust survivors are concerned is to get our local youth group involved in this work – for the youth to visit the survivors, and learn from their rich history and heritage. Rebecca lives outside our region, so this is not feasible for us to do with her. But please pray with me that God will bring some survivors that live nearby. We can get names and contacts from the local authorities, but then our hands will be tied where it comes to sharing the Gospel with them.

Please pray that God will bring to us those He wants to use us in order to fill this gaping hole in their hearts. Thank you for joining us as we contribute our part in the restoration of the widow Israel through these precious ones.

For donations to our Holocaust Fund, you can send checks to:

House of Stephanas
1005 Elaine Trail
Chattanooga, TN 37421

Please add a note specifying the donation is for
Ot OoMofet’s Holocaust Fund

 

 

A mourning turned into dance – part 2

YOM ZIKARON2

There is another way our nation commemorates her widowhood. Tonight starts Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Acts of Terror. Since the first “olim” (immigrants) started coming back to Zion, through the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 and till this day, 23,447 soldiers and civilians lost their lives in wars or acts of terror.

Just like on Holocaust Memorial Day, on this day the nation will once again cease all its doings for a moment of silence as the sirens will go off. The home maker by her sink, the driver on the road, even the prime minister will cease his important work – and all will stand in silence. Ceremonies will be conducted in military cemeteries throughout the land.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” sings David. And Israel can join these lines, since the moment memorial day will be over, we will begin the celebration of our Independence Day.

And so, in one very busy and emotion filled week, Israel will address its widowhood and orphanhood, her mourning, but also her victory and her rising from the ashes. From the cross to the resurrection.

Not an easy transition. How do you swiftly turn from a day of mourning to a time of rejoicing?

How could the holocaust survivors, who suffered years of hunger and abuse, make it to the Land of their fathers and immediately join the forces to fight for our independence? How were they even able to start new families? Or express love? And choose life?

I often think about life in the camps. What would I have done if…? Why did the prisoners not run towards the fence, knowing they’d be shot or electrocuted, yet at least they would finally know rest? What caused them to hold on to life, day in and day out, when they had no idea, none what so ever, if they will ever leave those camps?

Every year, as we go through this transition from mourning to dancing, our people are given an opportunity to see the spiritual parallel: for two thousand years we were orphans and widows, with no one to manage us, let’s not forget that. But let us also lift our eyes to the future, to the day in which white robes of linen will replace the black mourning clothes we’ve been wearing for generations.

I invite you to pray for us accordingly: that we will rise from our widowhood, that we will recognize the existence of a loving husband, reaching his hand out to us. A God who gave us to the hands of vicious enemies because we have not heeded His voice, yet now is fulfilling the final part of His covenant with us, inviting us to enter His home as a bride enters the home of her husband.

The majority of the people of Israel do not even speak in these kind of terms and do not recognize the real reason for the sword and exile that have come upon us. Pray for our hearts to be softened, that we would recognize the fatherhood of God, and that we will realize He is our Husband. And a loving one indeed.

A mourning turned into dance – part 1

Once a year, about two weeks after the Passover Seder, Israel commemorates two huge events, that transformed her modern history.

The holocaust is the first one. Not that we ever forget it throughout the year, but this one day is fully dedicated to the memory of those who were murdered, and the unfathomable torture of those who survived.

It starts on the eve of the 27th day of Nissan. All media is busy with the Holocaust; no other movies or shows are broadcasted, no cinemas or restaurants are open. An entire country mourns.

On the following morning, at 10am, a siren is sounded all over the country. Everybody stops whatever it is they are doing at that moment, and stand still for two minutes.

What you see in the above picture is not the result of an accident. The siren went off, and the drivers simply pulled over, got out of their cars, and in silence expressed their feelings regarding something that words cannot describe anyhow.

Some numbers according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (as of April 2015):

♦ About 189,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. 60% are women.
♦ 45,000 of them live below the poverty line. Almost all of them struggle with severe loneliness
♦ About 1,200 die each month. With every passing month, however, this number grows for obvious reasons.
♦ Their average age is 84.

The Holocaust was the most severe form of punishment God had brought upon our nation in modern history. It was not the first time a decree has been issued to annihilate our name from among the nations. Psalm 83 describes it well, providing a long list of the nations that had that in mind in Biblical days. The book of Esther is yet another example of that desire. Hitler did not come up with something new. The only thing new was his loathsome method.

Living among us today, we still have some of those who miraculously survived this scheme. Each one of them is an amazing testimony to God’s promise to revive us from ashes.

Remember Rachel? Well, I now have her permission to share her real name – Rebecca. She is one of them. Against all odds she survived, and in the short clip bellow she shares about one of those moments, in which she looked death in the eye. (For the non-Hebrew speakers among you, our apologies. Right now the clip is in Hebrew only. We are working on the English subtitles which should be ready in a week or so, but we did not want to wait to share this beautiful clip. As soon as we have the revised clip, we will upload it and notify you).

 https://vimeo.com/165013726

Rebecca is an artist. The picture below shows the footprints left by those who were burnt in the flames. Some did not leave anything behind, except those prints.

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You can read more about our work among holocaust survivors at Restoring the brokenness of holocaust survivors.

But this day of mourning is not the end of the story. A week later Israel stands still once more. Read part 2 of this post to learn more about it.