Memories of HanukkahPublished on: 7.12.2021
By: ICEJ Staff writers
Over the past eight days of Hanukkah, candle lights have been flickering in the windows of homes all across Israel, while in the streets and squares larger Hannukiah menorahs with their distinctive nine candlesticks have shone brighter with each passing night. Every evening, the center candle – called the shamash or “servant lamp” – lights the other candlesticks at sunset.
The festival of Hannukah is a time to remember and celebrate the miracle that occurred when the Second Temple was rededicated in the days of the Maccabean victory over forced Hellenism. Although there was only a small vial of oil sufficient to light the Temple’s Menorah for one day, miraculously this oil lasted for eight days!
In addition to cheerful singing and dancing as the candles are lit, the sweet delights of sufganiyot (donuts) deep fried in oil are plentiful!
During this time of the Hanukkah celebration, our ICEJ Homecare team continues their dedicated weekly visitations to the elderly Russian Jews who so often feel sidelined by society.
Most of these elderly immigrants survived the horrors of the Second World War. For many of them, that dark period has remained an unprocessed low point of their life, casting a shadow to this day.
“We may not be aware of it, but every Holocaust survivor is a miracle. Many of them are the sole survivors of a family, of a generation, and sometimes even of an entire community”, Corrie van Maanen, ICEJ Homecare nurse, recently explained.
Zachar is all alone in Israel. He is a blind 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who so looks forward to his Homecare visits, and Corrie knows that a cup of tea will always be waiting for her when she visits!
As they sit together, he carefully begins his Hannukah story, searching the memories stored in his heart.
“I was five years old. My grandparents were religious”, recalled Zachar. “My grandfather had a purse and when it was Hanukkah, he took out a ‘kapeika’ (coin) for us. Together with my sister, she was two years older, we were allowed to go to the grocery store to buy special small cookies with that money.”
He gestures with his fingers to show how small the cookies were.
“I was standing close to my sister, and she had to buy them. When we got home, our little brother was waiting for us to share in the goodies. The years before I was born, there had been violent pogroms, and mother and father had to hide.”
Pondering a moment, Zachar continued.
“Our beautiful Hanukkah candlestick was gone, everything was stolen. My father had made a hanukkiah from a potato, with a hole in it, a little oil and a fuse.”
Zachar pauses once more, as if he sees it all again.
“I had lovely parents. They loved us children. I remember it all so well because after the Communists took over, our lives were full of fear.”
Zachar slowly drinks his tea, enjoying each sip as he savors every moment of his Homecare visit. While telling this story from his life, more than 85 years later in his kitchen in Jerusalem, it’s as if the dust is being blown off events that happened so long ago. In Zachar’s life, there have been many situations in which the God of Israel provided him protection and kept him from evil. And despite much suffering, he also has been able to experience miracles.
These dear elderly immigrants to Israel are very precious in the Lord’s sight. We know He cares for the most vulnerable of His people and does it through the kindness and care we are giving with your support. Thank you for your sharing in this undertaking to touch these lives, bring light into their world, and lift their hearts.