Reaching Holocaust Survivors in Israel
“No, no, no!” Nomi screamed. She clung to her mother’s hand until her mother was forced to let go after her hand was beaten by the butt of a Nazi soldier’s gun. Watching her beautiful, loving mother yanked away at gunpoint shocked Anna into muteness. She never saw her mother again.
Nomi barely remembers the sting of the tattoo that reduced her from a young human being to a mere number, but she does remember the hunger, fear, and shame she experienced in the death camp. The trouble came when she tried to talk, write, or explain the uncontrollable shaking or the continuous smell of burning bodies. She had no words to describe the conditions or situation.
“The Last Watch” for Holocaust Survivors
According to the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority, 15,324 Holocaust survivors died in Israel in 2021. As of January 2022, only 165,800 remain, and their average age is 85. “Our watch is the last watch, and it comes with great responsibility. These are the last years we have to serve them, allow them to age in dignity, and document as many of their stories as possible,” said Social Equality Minister Meirav Cohen.
A 90-year-old Auschwitz survivor recently said, “Our lives do not belong to us. They belong to history.” One of ANM’s partners in Israel is dedicated to making their lives matter today. For more than 25 years, this partner has unconditionally brought comfort and worth to this special people group. Without having the knowledge of church history, it is nearly impossible to understand the hesitancy of Jewish people in Israel to the Gospel.This is what makes it even more important for the love of God to be visible in those who serve Him.
Caring for Survivors
Usually lonely and forgotten, the more than 400 survivors under this ministry’s care realize they are remembered, honored, and loved by God. Tender, capable hands attend to this elderly population through consistent visits, humanitarian aid, and help with the activities of daily living every week. Special Jewish holidays are celebrated and excursions to Biblical sites are offered. Most of the survivors have never seen these sites. Outings to restaurants occur, and bi-weekly clubs provide wonderful times of fellowship. It is like a large family.
Some of the most meaningful times of the ministry are the weekly “Warm House Meetings.” These occur in the group apartment buildings where the residents live. They have separate quarters, but they can eat together in a common cafeteria where relationships develop. Those who are willing, open their individual living spaces for these gatherings. The majority of survivors returned to Israel from former atheistic Communist countries; many want to know where God was during all their horrors. A special sensitivity guides these discussions.
A Testimony of Transformation
Recently, Paul Robbins, the ANM Regional Director for Israel and friend of the above ministry, was in Jerusalem at the home of a couple who were Holocaust survivors. Anna had been an architect and recounted the story of the last time she saw her mother and the struggles she had. Her husband was an engineer, and they were the youngest members of their families. They both lost their parents and siblings.
On this day, Anna sat in a long-sleeved shirt to cover up her sagging tattoo that had faded over the years. It still was difficult to recall the memories, but when Paul asked how the ministry had affected their lives, broad smiles broke out on their faces. Anna said, “We love them so much, and we love God! They taught us the Bible, and now we know so much more about God.” The wrinkles on their faces seemed to fade as their smiles grew brighter. It became clear to Paul that the love of God was at home in their hearts.
With the numbers of Holocaust survivors in Israel from Russia and Ukraine increasing on a daily basis, this specific type of ministry is just what is needed. ANM supporters help make this work possible.