Suzanna is a student studying water industry engineering in the Kinneret Academic College. She originally hails from the city of Ashdod but currently lives in a kibbutz called Tel Katzir, located to the south of the Kinneret. Suzanna volunteers for Ten Kavod through ‘Impact’, a scholarship program for released IDF soldiers which requires its participants to undertake a certain amount of volunteering hours a year. Suzanna visits with a senior citizen named Benny at least once a week.
Suzanna explained that she’s been interested and involved in the field of medicine since a young age. She said, “From the age of 14 I was already a certified EMT and would go out on ambulance shifts with the team. Later, when I was in the IDF, I took another more advanced course for the army and graduated with honors. I even worked as a lifeguard on the beach. So basically, I love being a first responder and helping others. Whenever I would respond to emergencies with my team, I would meet EMTs from United Hatzalah who were always the first ones at the scene. So when I was reintroduced to the organization and Ten Kavod through Impact, I felt like I finally got my chance to become part of it and I was really excited.”
Now, after volunteering for some time, Suzanna confirms that she definitely made the right decision to join Ten Kavod. “I have been enjoying it and I feel like I’m doing something really important. The visits fill a void that I had when I wasn’t practicing being an EMT. I feel part of the organization and connected to the people in it. I have a good friendship with the coordinator of my branch, Meir Hayon, who provides me with whatever I need.”
On top of juggling school and work, Suzanna always sets time aside to visit her beloved new friends Benny and his wife Levana. “Instead of feeling overwhelmed that I am constantly busy, it’s nice for me. I enjoy learning in school, and I enjoy my job, and visiting Benny and Levana always brings me joy and a good change of pace.”
Suzanna described a little bit about Benny. “Benny is a Holocaust survivor. He has a few disabilities, one of which is that he doesn’t see so well in one eye. It’s hard for him to walk, and he suffers from Parkinson’s and dementia, but all in all, he is healthy and doing well. The first thing I always do when I come over is check his vitals and ask how he’s doing. I also ask Levana if she has any concerns or comments.”
Suzanna stresses that the weekly medical checkup is so important and helpful. “One time, when I was with my family in Ashdod for the day, Levana called me and told me something that had happened earlier that day. Her husband had lost consciousness so she called United Hatzalah who rushed over and brought him to the hospital. The doctors figured out that Benny’s body reacted badly to the mixture of medications he was taking for Parkinson’s. I was sad that I wasn’t able to be there for them at that moment, but the next day, I came straight there to comfort them. And again, just recently, I noticed that Benny’s blood sugar was unusually high. I got nervous that his body was experiencing something like the past event. In the end, we realized it was just because he had eaten some grapes prior to the checkup, but this just shows how important these checkups are. I was able to catch this and remind them that diet influences a lot in the body.”
After the quick medical examination, Suzanna and Benny like to sit down and spend some time together. “We talk about our lives, we play games, and sometimes go outside for a walk. Benny and Levana have lots of photo albums that they like to show to me and reminisce about. They remember different stories from past years as we look at the photos and they tell me about their family. I think it’s also important for Benny that we do exercises like this to help improve his memory and weaken the dementia fog.”
“Recently, Benny and I have been reading a book about the Holocaust in Libya and Morocco together. It’s really interesting for me because I mostly hear about the stories from people in Poland, Germany, etc., which are more common. Benny enjoys it because he was born in Libya and survived the Holocaust there. We have really interesting conversations as we read the book and then he always brings his insights to the table. He actually wants to write a book about his and his family’s story.”
Suzanna continued, “Benny is a really funny man with a great sense of humor. We always have a great time filled with laughter and happy memories. Their house feels like home to me and I feel that they care for me as if they are my own grandfather and grandmother. It’s hard for me sometimes, living far from my family in Ashdod and working hard, but they always manage to lift my morale and make me happy. I think that’s one of the great things that Benny and Levana have given me; just a sense of everlasting calm and laughter. And it’s mainly the feeling of family and love- love for me and love for each other, that has helped me through this year.”
Benny and Levana-
Benny is a 78-year-old Holocaust survivor from Libya who moved to Israel with his parents after the war. They moved to Bat yam, the same city Levana was also living in. In the 1960s the two met, fell in love, and got married. (Suzanna mentioned that one of the things that stood out to her and touched her heart was the love that Benny and Levana still have for each other even after all these years.) The newly wedded couple moved to Kibbutz Tel Katzir where they are still currently living. They have 4 children who are each married and with children of their own.
Levana explained that Benny is sick with Parkinson’s disease and these visits with Suzanna really help him. She said, “He is socially limited and doesn’t spend time with many people other than me because of the Parkinsons. For him, when Suzanna comes over, it’s like a shining light and a breath of fresh air. He suddenly opens up and begins to talk and tell stories. He can’t wait for their visits each week and loves their time together.”
Sometimes, Levana joins as well. She said, “When Suzanna comes over she sits with Benny either in the house or on the porch, and they talk, each time about something else. I noticed that it’s fun for him to talk and it’s fun and interesting for her to listen. They make a good pair and get along very well together.”
Levana is incredibly appreciative of Ten Kavod and Suzanna. She said, “Ten Kavod is wonderful and helps a lot of elderly people, ourselves included. We are very grateful for the visits with Suzanna. They are such fun and we hope that we can continue another year together.”
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