Yael's Holy Land Reflections
We Care, We Are Here, We Help
November 24, 2021
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a real-life encounter is worth volumes of knowledge and research.
I have always said that one of the greatest advantages of supporting the work of IFCJ Canada is that we are on the ground in Israel, so we are able to get a close look at Israeli society and understand the intricate and subtle needs of Israel’s most vulnerable populations. And then, because of our faithful ministry family members like you, we’re able to quickly respond to those needs and make a tangible impact for God.
Some time ago, I visited Yehudit, an elderly woman in Israel receiving Fellowship aid. When I arrived at Yehudit’s apartment building, I saw how run-down the building looked. The inside was not any better, and I quickly realized that there was no elevator or electricity in the stairwell. By the time I climbed up the six flights of stairs to reach Yehudit’s apartment, I was out of breath. Curiously, the door was already open.
I walked in and greeted Yehudit with my biggest smile and hug. It was winter, so I gave her a blanket and heating fuel on behalf of Canadian friends who support IFCJ Canada. Then, I began to chat with her, because emotional support and companionship to our elderly is just as important as physical aid.
In the course of our conversation, I asked Yehudit if she had left the door open by accident. She explained that she always kept the door open because she suffered from severe asthma. She said the open door helped her breathe better.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Yehudit started weeping. She told me that she was terrified of having an asthma attack in her apartment and dying alone. I suggested that she could call an ambulance if she ever needed help, but Yehudit explained that she never would. The last time she did, she received a bill for more than half of her monthly stipend. Yehudit preferred dying to a life without food or dignity.
This was heartbreaking. I assured Yehudit that we would help her. Sadly, we never got the chance. Just a few days later, a social worker told me that Yehudit had died of an asthma attack alone in her apartment, just as she had feared.
This tragedy really shook us up. our staff realized that it was up to us to take better care of the elderly because if we did not, no one would. We increased our food program outreach that was already feeding thousands of the elderly in Israel and mobilized volunteers who would check in on them regularly.
Today, in Yehudit’s honour, over 17,000 elderly receive food and regular visits so that they no longer have to feel alone. I am so grateful that despite the tragic loss of Yehudit, we were able to save countless others.
There is no substitute for being in Israel, on the ground, seeing first-hand what help is necessary. This is the strength of IFCJ Canada — we care, we are here, and we continue to find ways to help the most vulnerable in our society live with peace, love, and dignity.
My father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, began the good work of helping the most vulnerable Jewish people around the world in 1983, and I am blessed beyond words to continue this work into the future. I stand beside amazing friends of Israel like you who have made a holy commitment to bless Israel and her people.
Without your generous and consistent support, Jews in the same situation that sweet Yehudit was in would suffer without the basic care they need just to survive. Thank you for answering this calling to bless His people. You are a hero of faith.