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Ten Kavod Maalot – The Story of Elishema Oren and Yaakov Maarek
Yaakov Maarek was born on November 14th, 1942 in Tunis City, Tunisia to a family with 4 children, including him. When Yaakov was two days old, his family escaped Tunis and fled to Algeria’s border due to the Nazi invasion and the subsequent bombing of Tunis. After arriving in occupied Algeria, Yaakov’s family still lived under occupation and feared the rampant antisemitism prevalent at that time. Due to the fear of antisemitism, Yaakov was only able to have his circumcision ceremony at 9 months old. After the war, his family began their efforts to immigrate to Israel but were delayed in coming.
At age 13, Yaakov joined the Youth Aliyah movement and came alone to Israel. His parents followed about two to three months after, but their immigration process wasn’t smooth. Only a year after Yaakov’s family came to Israel, they left for France, Yaakov stayed at a boarding school in France for two weeks due to his family not being able to find a place to live. After a while, Yaakov’s family flew back to Tunis. Yaakov then made aliyah again on his own and came to David Raziel’s village in Herzliya. In a round-a-bout turn of events, Yaakov’s parents followed him after a few months for a second time and finally settled in Maalot. Yaakov joined the IDF and served in the Nahal Unit and specialized in engineering.
After Yaakov completed his military service he was one of the first ambulance drivers in Maalot, later on, he opened a cosmetics and perfume shop and was an importer of cosmetics for two years. Yaakov continued his professional career in the field of ink marketing before going to work at a heavy equipment company, which developed and constructed roadworks.
Yaakov heard about the Ten Kavod program from the welfare department in Maalot and from Yosef Azrad, the Maalot coordinator of the project. Yaakov said he liked the idea of the program and asked to join.
Yaakov recounted, “The first Ten Kavod volunteer that came to visit with me was a huge help to me. He helped me with things I didn’t even think of and went above and beyond. I feel the program is very helpful for older citizens such as myself, as it alleviates loneliness and helps me keep track of my health. Sometimes loneliness is worse than health issues, it is suffocating. I’m glad I joined the program it gives me joy and provides me with a lot of the help that I need.’
One experience that stood out for Yaakov from Ten Kavod was when he was discharged after being hospitalized at Rambam hospital and couldn’t get home by himself since his condition required that he lay down. United Hatzalah volunteers arrived with an ambulance to take Yaakov home while he was laying down, thereby not causing his medical situation to deteriorate once again. “It was the kindest thing I could ever imagine someone will do for me, I was so grateful for the assistance. As I couldn’t find anyone else to do this, and for volunteers to come and assist me, it was the kindest thing.’’
Elishemah Oren is a 25 years old nursing student and a United Hatzalah volunteer with the Ten Kavod project. Elishemah joined the project after Yosef recommended it to him. Elishemah recounted; ‘’At first, I was a bit nervous about who I would be going to meet with. But when I walked in, Yaakov was so welcoming and happy to see me. We chatted for 30 minutes non-stop, which was truly fun. When we meet we mostly talk, and sometimes we argue about subjects such as politics but I enjoy our conversations very much and I check Yaakov’s vital signs each time. One of the meetings which stands out most in my mind was the time I brought a guitar in my car and we played songs together, it was very memorable for me and showed me a type of kinship that I haven’t had in a while.’’