In honor of Hanukkah, volunteers from United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod project across Israel took the initiative to distribute sets of menorahs (hanukkiahs) and candles to over 500 senior citizens, most of whom are elderly and live on their own or with a caretaker appointed by the National Insurance Institute. In addition to the distribution of the Hanukkah sets, many of Ten Kavod volunteers visited with the seniors and lit the menorahs with them on one or more of the nights of Hanukkah. This special Hanukkah visit came in addition to the regular weekly meetings during which the volunteers spend time with the seniors, provide them with a free medical checkup, and spend time with them to alleviate their sense of loneliness and isolation. In certain regions, Ten Kavod coordinators invited many seniors to special Hanukkah events made and helped them with transportation in order to get them out of their homes and into a more social atmosphere.
Meir Hayun, coordinator of the Ten Kavod project in Tiberias took it upon himself to visit an old lady who hadn’t left her house in 10 years. Meir, along with his wife, another Ten Kavod volunteer, and 10 firefighters who joined the celebration, lit the hanukkiah with the older woman and spent the evening singing songs and enjoying sufganiyot with her. The group invited a few neighbors to join in as well. Meir explained that this is just the beginning of helping this woman. ‘’The Ten Kavod volunteer who visits her is a member of the student “Impact” program and also volunteers for the fire department. He brought his friends from the Fire House and we brought some other Ten Kavod volunteers and some neighbors in order to help this woman celebrate. She hasn’t left her home in over a decade and we knew that we have to help her feel what it is like to be part of a community again. We plan on taking her on our Wish Ambulance in order to have her see parts of Israel that she hasn’t been able to reach since being stuck at home.’’
The coordinator of the Maalot region for the project, Yossi Azrad, who takes care of many volunteers and seniors in Maalot shared one of the initiatives undertaken by his team. “A 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, who never lit a menorah previously in his life, was able to light a menorah for the first time. Our Ten Kavod volunteer arrived at his house with a menorah, candles, matches, and sufganiyot, in order to help him feel the holiday spirit and experience lighting the menorah for the first time. It was incredibly moving for all of us and the smile that the man had on his face during the candle-lighting was priceless.”
Loren Shitrit, who coordinates the project for the towns in the Hevel Sorek regional council decided together with many of the volunteers there to throw a Hanukkah party for the seniors at a local community center. “With the help of local community members who donated food, drinks, and decorations,” Shitrit explained, “the seniors who participate in the program from around the region were able to come and attended the event and enjoy a different style of celebration that they usually have on their own at home. The event was so successful, the people from the community who have no affiliation with the project came and joined in the festivities. A photographer came and took pictures and then presented the seniors with magnets from the event to take home as a remembrance of the event. The volunteers sang and played music for the seniors and even the Mayor came. The greatest sign of our success was that many people who came to the party and were not previously part of the project, no have asked to join and become volunteers.
Head of the Development Department for United Hatzalah and Director of the Ten Kavod project Ariel Ben David spoke about the special initiative and the joy it brought to hundreds of seniors across the country during the holiday. “Our volunteers accompany these seniors throughout the year with weekly visits. We have found that especially during the holiday season many of the seniors are sad instead of happy as they have no one to share the holiday with. Our volunteers made an extra special effort this year to make sure that all of the seniors we visit feel included and had someone to light the Hanukkah candles with in order to lift their spirits and share with them the joy of the holiday.”
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