Haifa Home residents delight in new experiences!Published on: 2.5.2023
By: Yudit Setz
Here is the latest from the ICEJ’s unique Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa.
Spring in the air
After the rain and cold of winter, the warmer weather brings everything into bloom here in northern Israel. Spring is in the air! Israel is so fresh and green again.
Many of our residents long to see flowers blooming in nature, but some are too weak to go by themselves. They stay at home day after day, but want to go out and see something new. Some used to have gardens of their own and they love flowers.
Not far from Haifa is Kibbutz Ygur, located on the slopes of Mount Carmel, which has a large nursery and greenhouse full of colourful flowers. This was a wonderful place to take a group of our residents who enjoy the beauty of flowers and wanted to drink a cup of coffee in the nursery’s little café.
For Sofia the outing was a balm for her soul. “These flowers don’t only bring joy to my eyes, but they fill my soul with joy,” she exclaimed.
One of our wheelchair-bound residents, Julia, recently arrived from Ukraine with her son. “I didn’t realise Haifa is such a big city”, she said. “The only thing I see is my apartment, the dining room, and the doctor’s office.”
A bird’s eye view of Haifa
The ICEJ team also organised a special sightseeing tour in Haifa for a group of our residents. The change in environment, the beautiful weather, and the excitement of getting out was a great way for them to bond together, even if they cannot always communicate in the same language.
Haifa is built on the Carmel range and in 2022 a cable car opened to the public. From the cable car you can see breath-taking views all over Haifa Bay and the surrounding area. Our residents were very excited to try the new cable cars and thoroughly enjoyed the bird’s eye view of the sea, forests and neighbourhoods of Haifa.
When reaching the top, we all were ready to visit the local coffee shop before the return trip down the mountain. Everyone came home a little tired but full of memories and stories to share! “I am so glad I could join; it is so much better than sitting at home”, said Emma.
Holocaust Remembrance Day
In preparation for Holocaust Remembrance Day in mid-April, the Haifa Home hosted groups of young Israelis eager to meet Holocaust survivors. One group of teenagers is studying photography at Haifa’s Reut School of Arts, and they came with a very special project in mind; an exhibition dedicated to the survivors. The students spent time with different residents in the Home, taking photos and capturing their inner beauty for a photographic exhibition of the survivors to be held on Yom HaShoah in the Krieger Auditorium in Haifa. The residents treasured the chance to be models for a day! “It makes me so happy to be around these young people, who are so full of life,” said 91-year-old Zelda.
Right before Passover, many organisations work tirelessly to prepare food packages for needy families and the elderly, so no one will go hungry during the week-long Pesach holiday. Many volunteers from local businesses, the army and police joined our residents in preparing hundreds of holiday packages for needy Holocaust survivors in Haifa and other parts of the country.
A group of students also came from a high school in Mitzpe Ramon, way down in the Negev, and managed to pack 200 food parcels with us in two hours. Afterwards, they listened to Esti, one of our residents, tell her life story.
Swiss adopters visit Naomi
The Glauser family recently came from Switzerland to meet Naomi, a Haifa Home resident they have been supporting. Naomi welcome them warmly and recounted some of the atrocities she had endured during the Holocaust.
Naomi was born in Chernovtsy (today in Ukraine) in 1934. When the war began, her town came under Nazi occupation. Naomi’s family was forced into a ghetto, while her father was taken to a labour camp. Naomi’s uncle and aunt also disappeared in a camp.
In the ghetto, Naomi’s family was often threatened by random gun fire and hid in an attic for safety. One day, two Nazi officers severely beat Naomi’s mother and ordered them to be shot, but they were spared and hidden by Christian neighbours until their liberation by Russian forces. It turned out Naomi’s father was still alive and they could return home in 1947, but their traumatic experiences stayed with them.
Despite all her hardships in life, Naomi remains a resilient person, and her courage truly inspired the Glauser family.
“After being in contact with Naomi for three years now, I was able to visit her for the first time with my family”, said Ursula Glauser. “It was very special to see Naomi, to listen to her and to feel her big heart. Although we brought gifts with us, I am the one who is going home richer for it. Thank you very much!”
Boris and Etta came to live in the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors five years ago. Boris, now 88, was born in Zaporozhe, in Ukraine, in 1934. When he was seven years old, the war came to his town. His first memory of the war is when his father rushed to their apartment and yelled something to his mother. She just had time to grab a pillow and a blanket, and they left their home immediately.
While German soldiers were entering their town, the family ran to the train station on the opposite side of town, where a train was about to leave. They quickly boarded a cargo car and sat on a pile of straw. Boris remembers the train faced air raids all the way to Moscow. When the German planes appeared, the train stopped and Boris’ father cried: “Get out, fast”. Everyone ran from the train and hid near the tracks while machine guns were firing. When the planes left, the train continued on its way.
Boris’ family was brought to Omsk, a small town in Siberia. The winter of 1941-1942 was extremely cold as temperatures dropped to -40C. They arrived without warm clothes and were suffering from the severe cold. Boris remembers that once on the way to school, his ears got so cold that he got sick and has had problems with his ears ever since.
When he was still a schoolboy, antisemitism was rampant in the Soviet Union and from a very young age Boris had to fight to protect himself, only because he was Jewish. He would come home with bruises all over his face. His father had to work at the military factory from early morning until very late at night and could not protect his son.
After high school, Boris joined the Soviet army. One day he and some comrades took unauthorised leave and as punishment they were sent to a construction unit. There, he met people from all over the country, including some who did not speak Russian. So, in the evenings he taught them Russian, which also helped him learn the basics of several other languages.
After his army service, Boris entered university for language studies. He finished the courses but did not want to become a teacher. This angered the authorities, who sent him to a very distant village as punishment for his “rebellious character”. A year later he returned to Omsk and began working at a factory in the patent department. He saw different inventions made in other countries and noticed the low quality of products and life in the Soviet Union.
When perestroika (“restructuring”) began in the late 1980s, the factory where he worked was closed. It was a difficult time and crime became rampant. Boris and his wife Etta always felt like strangers in the Soviet Union, as they suffered a lot from antisemitism. So, in 1999 they finally decided to make Aliyah to Israel.
They quickly came to love Israel and today they are so glad to be at the Haifa Home. The couple had to move many times in Haifa, and when they heard about our Home five years ago, they were eager to move in. They remain very grateful to live in a place that takes such good care of them and where they do not have to move again.
Please consider supporting our Haifa Home for Holocaust survivors by adopting one of the residents. Donate today at: give.icej.org/survivors