By: Maxine Carlill

For elderly Russian Jews visited by ICEJ Homecare, the Corona pandemic’s abrupt change of lifestyle was a shock. These elderly immigrants often feel uprooted from their land of origin and now were cut off from their children and grandchildren. In the first weeks of restrictions, the Homecare team brought groceries to their apartments and developed a ‘doorstep ministry’ as we conversed with them from the stairwell. Now we are allowed a few in-home visits and went to check a little closer on some of these dear Israelis.

Tanya, who made Aliyah over twenty years ago from Ukraine, turned the crisis into a learning challenge. “The Eternal wants us to learn something”, she said. She began to study history books about Israel and make notes, then call one of her ultra-Orthodox grandsons to share what she learned. After six weeks of being by herself, she remarked: “As much as I missed my grandchildren, the history of Israel which I didn’t know at all, came alive.”

Anna came to Israel in the 1990s with her mother and sister, and settled in southern Israel. Besides disappointments with Israel, she still carries painful memories of antisemitism in Russia. Anna lives alone and shuns social contact to avoid being hurt by others. However, our regular visits over the years have resulted in a special relationship. Once restrictions eased, we sat in her simply furnished apartment and inquired how she had fared through the lockdown. At the end of our visit, Anna could not restrain herself. “I would like to get a hug from you”, she pleaded. Amid such loneliness, no one can go without a touch of love. Wearing masks, we gave her a big embrace and left her smiling.  “Your visits are my feast!” she likes to say.

Rosa also lives alone and grieves the loss of her sister and flatmate of many years. When we talked about the lockdown, we saw it had been a struggle. She lifted her arms and cried: “Every morning I begin with ‘Shema Israel’. Hear O, God, Your grace and compassion over all Your children.” She learned the prayer in Yiddish from her parents back in Communist Russia. This prayer became a lifeline in a sea of uncertainty, knowing she is not alone.

We have many more stories of ministering to these lonely Jewish immigrants during this challenging time. We indeed are called “for such a time as this” to bless and comfort Israel. Our hearts are grateful for the many believers from the nations who sow seeds of love into the work of ICEJ Homecare.

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