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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chesed Mission 2015/5775: Day 7

We started off the 7th day of the Chesed Mission at the Emunah Ethiopian Day Care Center, one of the many Emunah day care centers located throughout Israel. This specific day care helps immigrant families who are struggling to adapt to Israeli society. We enjoyed the beautiful, sunny weather by interacting with the young children outside in their playground, blowing bubbles and playing ball. The children were so excited to play with us; the smiles and laughter flooded the area. It was evident that the day care staff appreciated our effort and support for their jobs, and the children definitely loved playing with us.
Next, we went to Keren Or, a unique school for children with visual impairments as well as other multiple disabilities. Many of the children were completely blind and could not communicate with us, but nonetheless, we had a great time singing and dancing with them. The few children who were able to get up, dance, and even sing for us, definitely warmed our hearts. The music filled the ears of the children and our effort to interact with them didn't go unappreciated, even though the children couldn't say so themselves. The strong, stellar staff at Keren Or made sure we knew how much it meant to the children that we visited them as well as how much they themselves feel validated by our visit.
At the Tel HaShomer Hospital, we were given the special opportunity to meet many inspirational people. First, we met with Avner Shapira, survivor of a recent firebomb attack and father of Ayala, who was more severely wounded in the attack. He answered our questions about the attack itself, his and his daughter's conditions, and their courage and will to move forward. He inspired me with his confidence that Israel is the safest place for him to be, regardless of the treacherous attack. The thought that someone who experienced such difficulty was able to persevere forced me to believe I can overcome all the comparably minute problems I face. After Avner, we heard from three IDF soldiers who served this past summer in Operation Protective Edge. They explained to us their positions in the army and answered our questions about the operation. When asked about their feelings when going in to the operation and the army in general, the soldiers simply answered that it had to be done; they have no choice. This idea made me believe that sometimes, there is no way out of situations, they must be dealt with. It seemed that this strong attitude is what keeps the soldiers going during times of danger. We truly benefitted from their words; their courage and humility inspired me to think more about possessing a strong, positive attitude. Finally, we handed out gifts to the children in various wings of the hospital. Many covered the general area, few went to the oncology unit, and I, along with some others, went to the eating disorders unit. Meeting girls my age who had spent the last year in the hospital inspired me to appreciate something I take for granted everyday, my ability to eat. I spoke to one girl who will be released tomorrow after 11 months of being in the hospital, to which I rejoiced. I could tell she was so grateful to finally feels well again. She explained to me the daily schedule and the schooling system, as well as the job of certain people that make sure she eats and doesn't burn too many calories. The resentment in her voice was quite depressing, but it touched me that she was so open with me and happy that she could finally leave.
We ended the day by going to an amazing facility led by an awe-inspiring leader. Beit Elezraki, an Emunah home for children "at risk" with over 250 children and with a warm, loving staff. This home was established in order to break the cycle of distress. After a short presentation by the home's director, a man who has literally dedicated all his life to this organization, we watched some of the children perform for us. Their energy was infectious. We ate a beautiful dinner with them and were able to interact and get to know the children. The caring atmosphere in the home truly makes the children who they are; they were so fun to be around. After that, we spent hours dancing with the children, which was simply awesome. The fun and the unity felt in the room was astonishing to me, considering their original background. The dedication of the founder and the loving, fun nature of the children allowed me to further appreciate my own family and made me realize how I could use the values I fortunately learned in my household to help others. We had a blast! ~Rebecca Zami