Ezer Mizion on the Front Lines

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrate during a Lag B'Omer gathering on Mount Meron in northern Israel on April 29, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Here at Ezer Mizion we are riding the waves of a raging ocean.

What originally started as an effort following the Meron tragedy to assist anyone dealing with trauma, quickly morphed into an emergency service for needs that have risen from the current escalating security situation. With frightening sirens blaring and missiles falling in central Israel, our professional teams are working around the clock and available for the increasing cases of people dealing with fear and anxiety.

From corona back then during those terrifying months to getting back to the “new normal”, living side by side with the covid reality after most of the adult population has either had corona or been vaccinated…

Then came Purim and Pesach with its intense kimcha dePischa (holiday food needs for the poor) campaign and food distribution. On to the spring/summer season, with the hope of opening our summer camps, both those for special needs and those for families dealing with cancer, this season.

Lag BaOmer was our next milestone, when we witnessed how Ezer Mizion quickly switched roles: from an ambulance transport servicing the mobility impaired in their efforts to get to the kever (grave) of the Rashbi in Meron, to a rapid rescue evacuation team for the victims of the Meron tragedy by our trained ambulance driver paramedics….

Our hospital teams worked around the clock to stand by the side of families of the 150 injured patients with food, transportation and support. We immediately opened an information hub to assist concerned family members in locating their loved ones, collaborating with police and other organizations. Our people were with the families at Abu Kabir, the forensic institute where they had to identify their loved ones for burial, a supporting shoulder to lean on at their darkest moments.

In the aftermath of the Meron tragedy, we activated our mental health support hotline to provide urgently need post-trauma support for people who were either at Meron itself, knew someone who was there or just needed support after experiencing terrible vulnerability.

And while still heavily involved in  that role, our emotional support hotlines have morphed to handle calls for emotional support from parents trying to deal with their scared children or loved ones and people in general experiencing anxiety due to the current security situation.

Living under the threat of air raid sirens, terrifying blasts and escalating violence has caused a serious uptick in emotional support needs. Many people are extremely frightened, and understandably so! Ezer Mizion is there for them with our professional team manning our mental health hotline.

In addition, we are sending packages of food to hungry soldiers manning stations in the south and to army camps where civilian entry is permitted.

Transportation to and from the hospital plus regular meals for family members continue as always but now greatly increased due to recent events. Please show your solidarity with the terrified residents of Israel by donating generously. Together we can embrace them in a loving hug of compassion and caring.

Tag your donation with the word ‘crises’ in dedication field. https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html

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And This Is Just One Family: Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services

Yaakov was about to become Bar Mitzvah. Let’s peak into his home to watch the goings on: the frantic calls to the caterer, the late night trip to exchange the hat for a larger size, the sisters pirouetting about in their new finery. But there was none of that. No happy excitement. Not a drop. There were late night trips but they were to the ER, not the hat store. During this what normally would have been a most joyful period in Yaakov’s life, both of his parents were battling cancer.

Yaakov’s family had already benefited in so many ways from Ezer Mizion’s Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services, the cancer support division that services the religious sector. It was only natural that they took over the organization of Yaakov’s Bar Mitzvah, one of approximately thirty in the past year. It would have to be small due to his parents’ condition. Small but certainly cheerful and festive. The Ezer Mizion volunteers got to work producing all that was needed including lovely miniatures to grace the sweet table and a special Bar Mitzvah cake. The mother sat comfortably on a chair which the director had brought from his own office.  Yaakov had his first aliyah (honor of reading a portion from the Torah) and was blessed by his father afterwards.   It was a memorable occasion with some of the last memories Yaakov will have of his father who parted from his beloved family just ten days later. Forever.

 Ezer Mizion continues to accompany the family on their difficult journey in the hope that the mother will have a complete recovery. Staff members raised money to cover renovations in their home to accommodate a wheelchair and for the purchase of a Dutch bed, an attractive piece of furniture with the features of a hospital bed. The enthusiasm among staff members was contagious, each one looking to do more and more. 

Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services, in memory of Rebetzin Judy Kalatzky A’H, serviced 731 families from 55 cities and towns in Israel in 2020. A total of 31,000 weekday meals and 21,000 Sabbath meals were provided to families in their homes over the year in addition to Sabbath baskets with complete Sabbathneeds delivered to families spending the Sabbath at the hospitals.

Transportation to and from hospitals and clinics, mentoring for children whose parents are not able to be there for them during this difficult period, a game library, emotional therapy, support groups and domestic help are some of the services provided by Ezer Mizion’s  Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Support Services.

Corona was challenging for people universally. But for families with a close loved one who is struggling with cancer, corona was a veritable upheaval. Cancer patients were considered hi-risk and – where everyone was cautious – cancer patients and their families had to be super careful to avoid COVID infection. Many children did not go to school or kindergarten or to friends or to the park – even when lockdown was long over – in order to protect their dear one from infection. Through this long and challenging period, where many families struggling with cancer were additionally challenged by an already disrupted home situation, Ezer Mizion was there for them in every way that we could be, to assist, sustain and empower. While at Ezer Mizion we adhered to strict and frequently changing Ministry of Health corona regulations, we found ways to adapt our services and keep them available to our target population. The summer retreat, a favorite of these families, had to be canceled but, notwithstanding extremely complex logistics, 68 families were hosted separately on mini-vacations. On behalf of Yaakov’s family and all those who benefited from Yad Yehudis Chana Cancer Services, thank you from the bottom of our heart to all of you whose generosity enables Ezer Mizion to accomplish so much!

https://www.ezermizion.org/donate-to-ezer-mizion.html
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Because of You!

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They Said It Will Never Happen

It was my birthday and I knew just what I wanted. When I was a little kid, I had some birthday requests that were so out of line that even i understood they were just dreams. Like the time I wanted a horse (We were living in an apartment building.) Now as an adult about to turn 40, my birthday dream seemed just as unattainable. What was it?  : A gift of giving, It’s what Ezer Mizion calls a Personalized Donor Pool – a group of potential bone marrow registrants who stand ready to save the lives of cancer patients. My own group whose genetic testing I would be responsible for. Whenever one of them would be found to be a match for a cancer patient and donate his stem cells, I would receive a call with the electrifying words: You have saved a life. What a gift! Every month, I would read the list of names of those  whose pools had saved one, sometimes two, lives and I’d think, “Why not me?!”

Elkanah – a recent hero who saved a life!

And so I began working on my birthday gift. I drove everyone crazy.   There were hundreds of messages on my facebook page focusing only on this. My whole family was caught up. Even my kids were involved answering phones all night. It was a matter of raising a large sum of money and some of my friends teased me with comments like, ‘Dream on…’ but some of my friends responded more encouragingly and joined in to help me. And as the numbers climbed up, more and more changed their minds and decided to join what seemed to be a winning team. The final numbers (for this year- remember,I have another birthday coming up next year…):

728 people who donated a total of $40,000+ that sponsored 716 new registry members!

Recently our donor pool was launched. My husband and I came for a tour of Ezer Mizion’s cancer support facility in Petah Tikvah. We got home an hour ago and the tears don’t stop flowing. If I only could show all of you what this place looks like! It’s an entire world of chessed, What they do for the patients! To walk into the Registry and see a soldier who was found to be a match for a patient sitting there, waiting to donate, to give life to another human being. Many of them. All spending hours of their time just so someone they never met could have a future. 

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Hila, the Sleeping Beauty

The following is written by Ricky, Hila’s mother, Hila is 22 years old. For 3 and a half years, she has been fighting a brain tumor that has taken over her body. A talented, smart and beautiful girl, she no longer speaks and is basically immobilized and blind. Her devoted mother cares for her in a hospice setting at home. May the miracle her family is waiting for soon appear  bringing  a complete recovery.

The flowers in the garden blossom, as they do every spring.

And my lovely Hila, the “sleeping beauty,” barely communicates with me.

She lies there, serene, her hair gathered in a ponytail and her face pristine and pretty, with an aura of tranquility.

And my heart contracts. And aches.

Have I despaired of miracles? Will we merit that miracle that we are waiting for?

That she should arise?

Wake up?

Speak to me?

Call me “Imush,” like she always did?

Please!

Rip the heavens with your prayers for our precious Hila.

Pray for Hila Malka Chaya bat Rivka Ricky.

Perhaps a tremendous miracle will yet happen here, a giant wonder that will be spoken about for years.

Words are too small to describe the terrible time we are enduring. It is almost too difficult to bear.

And then all kinds of sweet people with huge hearts appear and we are filled with strength and are comforted.

That is what our trip with Hila was yesterday, in Ezer Mizion’s ambulance.

Shlomo, the driver, took us to the doctor (who says that there is nothing more to do).

Such graciousness, goodwill and caring for our beloved daughter, who is struggling for her life and suffering so much.

Like all the Ezer Mizion drivers, he did so much to help Hila: he came early, drove slowly and was so gentle when he lifted her stretcher in and out of the ambulance.

So kind and thoughtful.

May there be many more like him among our people …

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Meron for the Disabled

Every year on Lag Ba’Omer, thousands of Jews from all over the world traditionally gather at Rav Shimon Bar Yocha’s grave in Meron. Everyone comes with their personal story, their struggles and challenges to pray and beg for a salvation. It’s a powerful opportunity nobody wants to miss. But for many people – the elderly, disabled, wheelchair bound and handicapped,  transport complications are way too difficult. For the last 15 years,  Ezer Mizion has overcome a myriad of logistics and  set up an ambulance headquarter around the base of the  Meron mountain, shuttling people from the many parking lots up the mountain, straight to the grave.

At the entrance to Meron is our main headquarter with staff coordinating the requests throughout the day from the many people whose disabilities prevent them from hiking up the mountain.

Our 15 ambulances plus vans transport over 2000 people enabling them to pray on this day of holiness.  The meeting point provides shelters with shaded tents and plenty of drinks for people waiting to be taken back down the mountain.

This awesome operation has received full backing and cooperation from the “National Center for Holy Sites” and the Israel Police

In the merit of all of us working together to provide the funds that enable the vulnerable to partake of this opportunity, may all our prayers be answered!

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It’s Never Not a Good Time

“It’s not a good time now. Perhaps another day…” These words would never be uttered by an Ezer Mizion staff member. And so there she was on a Friday, not a working day, three hours before Shabbos and elbow deep in challah (bread used on the Sabbath)dough and potato kugel (pudding), when the phone rang. An 11 year old boy with corona has been rushed from his Beit Shemesh home to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and is waiting for an emergency appendectomy. His mother is with him, both of them sick with corona. Both feeling awful, both strictly quarantined together in their hospital room, without any way to obtain even minimal needs. Can she help?

With the sizzling of the frying pan and the hum of the mixer creating a background of erev Shabbos sounds, N.got to work. Most vital was to contact the Medical Referral Director who was also at home preparing for Shabbos. A nail-biting phone conversation between the director and the father who was in quarantine with his other kids. Shabbos approaching. Fast.  More calls by the director to get the appropriate anesthesiologist and surgeon on the case. Finally a sigh of relief. Minutes before Shabbos   Everything in place.

As the director’s phone line buzzed with tension, N. began another chain of calls.  The clock continued ticking and the challos came out of the oven, No time to even check if the Medical Referrals Director was successful. Food had to be procured. Someone nearby. Maybe her…no, line busy. Perhaps she…no, she’s sick with corona. Another call. Another. Until C. answered. Before even hanging up the phone, C. frantically began  putting together pans of delicious hot food for Shabbos with fruit and nuts for treats and even a cozy blanket for Mommy to warm both body and soul as she nervously awaits her son’s surgery.

The serenity of Shabbos began to settle on the many homes in Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh – those that had, only minutes before, been feverishly been putting things together for this family in trouble. Shabbos. Peace. Tranquility. Until Havdollah (closing prayer on the Sabbath) when the calls began again. This time concerned. Is everything ok? How is t boy? Relief. The emergency surgery was successful. The food had arrived. The family could not have been more grateful. All is well. Smiles. Satisfaction. A job well done.

One more thank you note to add to the Ezer Mizion files. Thank you so,so much. Your organization is amazing,( looking forward to supporting it)  We are feeling a lot better, Hope to be discharged soon. What we got was perfect, wow and all this erev Shabbat. Thank you so much loads of brocha”

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When the Doctor Ordered Smiles

When the light is out in your living room, what do you do? Simple. Just flick a switch. What about when the light is out in the eyes of a heroic 12 year old girl? That’s much harder. But that’s what Ezer Mizion is there for and, once again, the Linked to Life network rallied and the light went on. 1000 watts! She had been battling cancer for what seemed to her and her family to be eons. They handled each problem as it came with trust in G-d. Some were harder than others. Recently it became necessary for this young child to have her leg amputated. They understood. It would save her life. But it was so hard. To think of her living for the rest of her life – may it be many, many years – missing a leg! While still in the throes of dealing with this devastating catastrophe, the calendar informed them that her bas mitzvah had arrived. The prime ingredient of a celebration is smiles. And, at this time, there were none to be had. That’s when the Ezer Mizion Linked to Life network was informed and a post went out. “Today we are going to restore light to the girl’s eyes. Today, she will go to sleep happy and content… with a wide smile, and will wake up with a lot of strength to keep going.” And then it began to pour. Her home was flooded. A stunning Bas Mitzvah cake. Goodies galore. Balloons with grinning emojis and encouraging messages. Gifts and gifts and more gifts. It was a major storm of caring and support. And suddenly the smiles abounded. They’d make it through. Now they knew they would.  Vitamin Encouragement is a strong medication.

Yael is another young girl engaged in the same war. Like any other17 year old girl, she has dreams. It’s so hard to hold onto dreams when so many of her days are spent in a hospital setting but Yael doesn’t give up. She studies hard for her matriculation exams. Some days giggling with a friend and some days attached to an IV pole. She is determined, our Yael. Determined to have the best possible future. And in her busy life, she makes a place for fun also. Meir Odesser is one of those talented people who can bring joy to the most depressed. He comes regularly to Ezer Mizion and puts on a fantastic show of twisting balloons into animals and the like.  Yael loves the show but she wants more. She wants to learn how to do it herself. Meir was thrilled to bring added happiness to this special girl and spends hours giving lessons and, most importantly, blowing a surge of optimism into each and every balloon.

 Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

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Because of You!

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A Midnight Inter- office Text from an Ezer Mizion Director

It’s close to midnight. Forgive the late hour, but I just can’t restrain myself. I must share this with my fellow staff members. 

Two hours ago, I got a phone call from one of community movers and shakers saying that an elderly community leader who has done so much for others is now in dire need himself.  He was just given an urgent referral to the hospital ER. He was shaken and was now confronted with a night at the ER, facing the unknown alone during the dark, frightful hours when he so desperately needed the comforts and familiarity of his own home.

I was asked if it might be possible to expedite the process.

I called Moshe Charash, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Medical Referrals and Advocacy Department and asked him what could be done.

I was told that best doctor for this medical issue is in Tel Hashomer. The patient is in Haifa. Not good.

And the doctor is off duty at night. Even worse.

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