“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted […]” (Matthew 5:4)
This week Israel observes Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, to honor and remember the 6 million Jews who perished under Nazi rule in World War II. For many countries, the reality of the Holocaust is a strong message for how low humanity can fall, and that we must all work to commemorate this tragedy in order to uphold the promise of “never again”. However, in Israel, the reality of this catastrophe is still very much alive today. At the beginning of 2019, the Israel Census Bureau reported that there was a total of 212,000 remaining survivors in Israel, of which, the majority are all over the age of 80 years old. Nearly 40% of the survivors who reside in Israel today arrived during a very concentrated window of time between 1948 and 1951, immediately after the Israeli War of Independence and the recognition of Israel as an official country for the Jewish people. Many modern-day Israelis are either related to or know a Holocaust survivor, so the memory of this tragedy does not feel so distant. However, with every passing year, thousands of survivors pass away, and their first-hand testimonies die with them. It is because of this reality, and the rising rates of anti-Semitism once again, that many survivors and Jews across the globe have felt an urgency to record and chronicle their stories to keep history from repeating itself.
Every Yom HaShoah a loud air-raid siren rings out throughout Israel; cars come to a stand-still on highways, workers and students rise from their desks, and a nation of people stand in silence for two minutes of solemn reflection and mourning. Despite this annual display of honor and sorrow for those who experienced the Holocaust, the survivors who reside in Israel today often still struggle with some fundamental needs. Because many experience a recurrence of old memories and trauma as they enter into old age the survivor community in Israel can often experience depression, isolation, and feelings of despair and loneliness. Not only this, many survivors have few familial ties, as their family in Europe often perished, and in their old age, they lack community and connection and sometimes financial support. It is reported that over 45,000 survivors live below the poverty line in Israel. In addition to emotional needs, usually, they also need day-to-day economic support. This demand has always touched the heart of CBN Israel, and as an organization, CBN has aimed to honor and support Holocaust survivors throughout the other 364 days of the year as well.
Through our partnerships with multiple Messianic congregations throughout Israel, CBN gives monthly food parcels, vouchers, medical support, and coverage for other basic needs to survivors in numerous cities. In the Northern region, in partnership with Rivers of Living Water Congregation in Karmiel, we provide monthly food parcels for nearly 900 survivors! Through our support, partners like the Karmiel congregation can also offer emotional care by hosting outreach events, inter-faith services, and allowing God to touch their hearts in whatever way they can. Believers create a space to sing, dance, and pray for the survivors at different holiday celebrations as well as the weekly service that many survivors have made a weekly staple now. Attendees say that clearly their hearts are very touched by the end of each gathering. One of the facilitation leaders for the survivors’ support stated that “service should not only be by bread alone, but also through whatever way we can show God’s love to bring more care and peace into their lives. Most importantly, they need to know that they are not alone, and we are there to show them that they never can be”.
It is with an open heart that CBN Israel and our partners do everything in our power to extend God’s love to Holocaust survivors in Israel while they are still among us. In only a few generations the number of survivors will be dwindling, so the urgency to support them today has never been more pressing. If not us, who will show them comfort and provide for them emotionally, financially and spiritually in their final years? If not now, when? If you wish to pray for the care and provision for the remaining survivors in Israel, we ask that you pray that they may ‘mourn with hope’ for those who have already passed or perished, for the eternal love of God covers them.