Dignity Becomes Them Lest We Forget

In many instances in Israel, elderly people, especially those who live on their own a long distance away from their children or loved ones, do not receive the help that they need and deserve. One of United Hatzalah’s community outreach programs known as the Ten Kavod project aims to counteract this trend. The project is an initiative of the organization that helps elderly people, among whom are many holocaust survivors, monitor and maintain their health as they continue to age. The project which started with three volunteers just 6 years ago, now boasts some 580 medically trained volunteers from across the country, Jews and non-Jews alike.

As part of the project, the volunteers visit at least one, but often times quite a few elderly people, at least once a week and provide them with a free in-house medical checkup and some much needed social companionship.

Astar Ettinger visits with an elderly participant in the Ten Kavod project

In an effort to catch medical problems before they become threatening, the volunteers check the vitals of the elderly person or persons whom they are visiting, and should they find something abnormal, the volunteer phones the person’s family doctor and reports the information.

“Our volunteers are dedicated to helping others, specifically the elderly, and they often create real bonds of friendship with the elderly people whom they visit,” said the project coordinator Shmuel Rosengarten. “The program participant often looks forward to these visits as being the highlight of their week,” he added.

Moshe Abdelhak is one such volunteer in Tevaria. He lives with his family and is himself, post-retirement. “There is always work to be done,” said Abdelhak. “I do this simply so that I can help others and it is making an impact on both the life of the person I visit as well as on my own.” In addition to his Ten Kavod volunteering, Abdelhak is a volunteer EMT.

“Each week I visit three senior citizens in my own neighborhood, each of whom is in a fragile state. I check up on them, make sure that all of their medications are in order and that they understand what they have been given, and offer my help with anything else that needs to be done. It is very gratifying to me knowing that every week I get the opportunity to help some of the people who built this country,” Abdelhak concluded.

Yehuda Amitai visits with a Ten Kavod participant

Another Ten Kavod volunteer is Michal Kaneh. When Kaneh heard about United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod program, she signed up right away.

Kaneh visits Meir, an older Israeli who was born and raised in Europe. When Meir was only 10-years-old, World War 2 broke out and his family members were taken to a concentration camp. Meir however, fled on foot. He managed to evade the Nazis and their accomplices and miraculously survived the war. Later, he made his way to Israel, married, and began life anew.

Decades later, Meir is suffering from a number of health problems. His wife suffers from dementia and the couple requires constant monitoring. Kaneh visits Meir every week. The visits last at least an hour, sometimes two. Kaneh checks Meir’s vital signs and monitors his conditions, making sure to detect health problems before they escalate. Sometimes, during these visits, Meir even discusses his past. One time, Meir’s treasured recording of his Holocaust survivor testimony got damaged and wouldn’t play. This recording included testimonies of his escape and precious stories about his family members. Kaneh knew how critical these memories are to Meir, and reached out to Yad Vashem. She succeeded in getting a duplicate made from their records and promptly had it delivered to Meir to ease his mind.

“These people have gone through so much our volunteers feel that it is there duty to help them now that they have a need for it,” said Founder and President of United Hatzalah Eli Beer. “We train our volunteers to offer these services in a way that provides these elderly people with all the dignity that they deserve. The volunteers help them keep track of their medications and check-ups, give them a social outlet and help prevent many medical emergencies from happening by maintaining a level of preventative medical intervention prior to an emergency occurring. This  is the least we can do for the venerated elders of our communities.”

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