Strength to Overcome The Hardships of Life – Ten Kavod Ashdod
The story of Rivka Yankovitz and Tamar Felish
Rivka is the Ten Kavod coordinator in Ashdod and works hard to grow the program and build it up to help even more of the seniors in the city. She, herself, volunteers in the program and visits a senior citizen named Tamar Felish each week. Rivka is 38-years-old and lives with her 10 children in Ashdod.
Around 3 years ago, something traumatic happened in Rivka’s life that pushed her to join Ten Kavod. Rivka’s husband, who was a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT for 10 years, suddenly passed away. Rivka was pregnant with their tenth child at the time. “The United Hatzalah family stayed with me throughout everything. The hugs, the comfort, the support they gave me, everyone came through and was with me during my grief. Their presence told me, ‘Rivka you are not alone,’ and it was such a comfort. I became a United Hatzalah volunteer and joined the Ten Kavod project in honor and memory of my dear husband and also to show gratitude and pay forward the kindness that the organization had shown me. They never left my side, not even for a moment when I needed them.”
Rivka and Tamar were paired up around half a year ago and have grown close over the months. The women have a session together each week in Tamar’s home in Ashdod. Rivka explained, “Sometimes we sit with each other for an hour, and sometimes for 2-3. We usually just have conversations because Tamar has difficulty walking. She loves to cook so sometimes she’ll make us something to eat. It’s incredible watching her cook. She can’t see, but she knows where everything is in her kitchen. Once, she had made food for her children and offered me some when I came over. I turned down her offer because I didn’t want to take it from her children, but she responded, ‘What are you talking about, you are my daughter. Eat, eat.’ It is so special that we have a relationship like this.”
Rivka continued to elaborate on their relationship and the love they have for each other. She said, “We have a close connection that’s like the relationship between a mother and daughter. Tamar is such a special person. Even my children can see how special she is and love her like a grandmother.”
“I learn something from her every time I see her,” said Rivka, referring to Tamar. “One of the reasons why she is so inspirational is because she got sick and became blind, yet despite the hardships, she continues her life without complaints. She cooks, cleans, and cares for her children, grandchildren, and me and my family. Just seeing her gives me the strength to continue as well, despite the hardships. She shows me that all you need to do is change your perspective on life. Many things in life can bring a person down but the goal is to get back up and continue. Tamar encourages me to get back up and strengthens me to continue. She is always giving and loving.”
During one meeting, Rivka and Tamar decided to take a spontaneous trip together. “We were talking, when Tamar mentioned that she had not been to the burial place of the Baba Sali in a long time and really wanted to go there to pray. She said that it was a great zechut. So I said, ‘why not go now?’ It was so spontaneous. And just like that, we called a friend that agreed to bring us and went together. I have never seen someone so happy in my life. Her desire to go pray for the benefit of others at the holy grave was so inspiring. There was a light just emanating from her. I’m sure that the other women could see it too because many of them came to receive blessings from Tamar and she was happy to bless everyone who asked.”
Tamar was born in Tunisia in 1951. When she was 17 years old she made aliyah to Israel. A few years later Tamar met her now-husband, and they got married. They currently live in Ashdod and have five children and many grandchildren.
A few times a week Tamar attends an Elderly day center and spends her morning there with friends.
Throughout the years, Tamar has worked many jobs. She was a teacher, a worker in a clothing factory for the IDF, and even a secretary in a hotel until they said she would have to work on Shabbat, so Tamar quit. “I just wanted to be able to pay the bills and make a good life for my family.” Tamar softly laughed as she reminisced about her past.
Tamar had a bacterial infection in her eye which caused her to go blind. “The recovery process was hard, but thank G-d a girl visited me every week to help me, as part of their national service. For the past year and a half, the girls stopped coming, but now Rivka comes so I am content.”
Tamar thinks so highly of Rivka. “She’s a woman who has been through a lot in her life but is always facing forward. She’s so strong and has such a good heart and a holy soul. Rivka is so special to me. My home is always open for her and I always want her to feel comfortable here like she is in her parents’ home. I will never forget the good that she’s done for me and the happiness that she brings me every time she comes.”
All in all, Tamar thoroughly enjoys participating in the Ten Kavod project and the visits Rivka pays her each week.“We usually just talk during our visits, and that is nice. However, I can’t wait for us to start going out for walks in the summer air and even more exciting trips, like the time we went to the grave of the Baba Sali. I had the most fun day like no other.”
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