Shoshana Lichtman lives in the Givat Sharet neighborhood of Beit Shemesh and is a nurse by profession as well as a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT. She is married with eight children and a bunch of grandchildren. She works for Melabev and runs the center for the elderly in Beit Shemesh which specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. On top of all her other responsibilities, she volunteers with United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod project in Beit Shemesh and visits with two older women who are residents of the city.
One of the women named Malka lives on her own, and another woman who lives with family members is named Lucille.
“Prior to the onset of the Corona pandemic, my children used to come with me to visit Malka they would sing with her, play instruments, and bring animals as well. Malka really loved those visits. Now that Corona has hit, we are very careful and the children only visit with her if we know that no one is ill with the virus.”
The past two years have been hard on many elderly people throughout Israel as many of those who live on their own, such as Malka, were at times, completely isolated from everyone else.
“During some of the earlier lockdowns due to Corona, Malka called me and asked me to come over to help her take out the garbage. She has a bunch of stairs in her apartment and cannot get up or down them easily. She had a very little bit of garbage and in reality, just wanted to see us. It was touching and helpful for both of us to see a friendly face.”
Shoshana added that Malka has almost become like a member of her family. “My kids called her Savta Malka, and we have all really connected. As part of the Ten Kavod project, we got her a heater for her home as well as blankets and pillows for the winter. I check her vital signs each week and most of the time she is healthy, thankfully. One time I caught a rise in her blood pressure and another time I caught a drop in her sugar levels. I immediately contacted her son and her doctor and alerted them to the changes in her condition. It turned out she hadn’t been eating properly and that was the cause of the change. We got her help with that and Malka received prompt care and returned to good health. When you take a person’s vital signs every week you are attuned to even a slight change and it is a good thing so that I was able to get Malka the help she needed.”
Shoshana talked about Lucille with great fondness she described their relationship. “Lucille is American-born and was a school teacher who used to work in Philadelphia before she came to Israel. She is 96 years old and is one of the most positive people that I have ever met. She can be full of aches and pains but she will always find something nice to say. She is also active and sometimes comes to my Melabev program as well in order to get out of the house and be part of a community for people her age.”
Shoshana recounted an incident in which she switched hats and visited Lucille for a medical emergency after Lucille had fainted one evening. “Lucille lives in one of the Charedi neighborhoods of the city. I received an alert from United Hatzalah that there was an emergency in that community and I got an alert from Melabev at the same time. It turned out that Lucille had fainted, so even though I generally don’t respond to emergencies in that neighborhood, as I am not the closest emergency responder, I rushed over to help in any case, because I have a pre-existing relationship with the patient.”
Shoshana recounted, “When I arrived, I wasn’t the first EMT at the scene, but still I was a familiar face, someone she knew and I was able to comfort her and take her vital signs while keeping her calm. Lucille’s family also felt comforted that I was there. In the end, she didn’t need to go to the hospital but I stayed with her for a while and made sure that she was okay and rechecked her vital signs and she came back to herself and was thankfully okay.”
Lucille is also part of a special pen pal pilot program that connects friends of United Hatzalah’s Ten Kavod project living in the United States and elderly people living in Israel. Under the auspices of the project, both people write letters back and forth on a weekly basis and have video phone calls using a special tablet that was donated specifically for this purpose that Lucille now has the use of. This project is another form of connection that helps to alleviate the loneliness of the elderly people living in Israel. “Lucille really enjoys writing and sharing with the people abroad on a special tablet that was purchased for her. We often play games on the tablet when we are together which she enjoys as well so it is a win-win and it gives her access to the internet so that she can stay connected with what is happening in the world.”
Malka spoke very highly of Shoshana and the work that she does. “Shoshana is such a tzadekes (righteous person), she comes each week and checks my vital signs, I have issues with my sugar level and she checks them for me and makes sure that I am okay. I really appreciate her. She is an angel.”
Malka spoke a bit about her personal background and some of the things she went through in life before moving to her current home in Beit Shemesh. “I was born in Jerusalem in the old city before the state of Israel was founded. My family and I were expelled from the old city during the War of Independence and we ended up living in Meah Shearim. Like many others who lived there were in extreme poverty and I remember many nights where we would go to the Bucharian Shuk to get food and all we had to eat were chicken feet. We suffered in those days, but thankfully things have gotten much better. Now when I go to the supermarket I stand by the door and look inside and I thank God for the plenty that we know and enjoy as a society. It is such a different world.”
Malka has three children each of whom has their own medical conditions and difficulties. “I am so worried about them and I wish I could help them like I used to do when they were younger. They aren’t in a position to help me much either but we get by.
I also thank Hashem for Shoshana for visiting me. It is really special when she comes and brings her children I love them so much and I cherish the time that we have together. They have been visiting me for years and I love them all. Shoshana always likes to bring me food, vegetables, and things for Shabbat. She always asks me what I need and I am a bit embarrassed to tell her, but they love me and I am thankful for that.”
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