Next week is my birthday and I want…The words are those of an eight year old but can easily be the thoughts of a thirty-eight year old. She’s just learned to be more polite. Natural feelings. We like being pampered and appreciated. We may be giving parents, neighbors, friends but on a birthday, it’s nice to receive. But then there are others, those rare few, who receive the most by giving. They don’t even realize how special they are and will casually send a message like the one below.
“Today is my birthday and I want to really celebrate by filling it with chessed and helping others. Please count me in for as many transports as possible today, my special day!”
This message was sent to Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life, a whatsapp network offering rides to benefit the sick, delivers meds, pick up a lab sample etc etc.
Her coordinator complied and made it a very special birthday indeed. It began with taking volunteers to Hadassah Ein Kerem, a cancer patient to treatment, bringing food to the family of an oncology patient, and that was just for starters…
How blessed we are that these are our volunteers!
Another coordinator relates:
A resident of Rishon Letzion was walking down a hospital corridor to visit a relative when she passed by a woman crying in pain. She couldn’t simply walk by and so she called the phone number used by so many in Eretz Yisroel : Ezer Mizion. I asked her to put the woman on the line. Amid her tears, the woman explained that, having no one to advocate for her, she did not seem to be receiving the care that she needed. I had no way of knowing if that was really the case but the Ezer Mizion Medical Referral Department would be able to get to the bottom of it and so I referred the call to them.
The staff member who took on the case investigated in detail as if she had been a close family member. Result? The woman received the surgery she needed and is doing fine. The woman who had been visiting her relative followed the case and was open-mouthed at seeing how swiftly and how carefully and professionally the situation was handled, a situation that began with a simple phone call. She was so amazed that she called me again and asked how she could join the family (because it truly is a family). And so Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life gained a new volunteer.
Do you remember learning how to swim? In your panic, you may have tried to fight the water, thrashing about and soon finding that it didn’t work. ‘Relax,’ said the instructor. ‘Take slow strokes. Trust me. You can do it. True, it’s different. You’re not used to moving in water. But it really can be done. Just don’t fight it.
‘I had been fighting it,’ says Yaakov. ‘Not the water but something else. Something much more scary. And there was no instructor to encourage me. I was all alone, or so I thought, too terrified to face it. Too traumatized to seek help. The woman I had married, the mother of my children, had metamorphosed into …into. I couldn’t even say the word. I was fighting it, trying to make believe it wasn’t there. Then one day I did what i should have done months ago. I called Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Division. They understood immediately. I felt validated. I felt supported. I was no longer alone. They opened my eyes and helped me understand that accepting the reality and ‘going from there’ is not only possible but the only option that will allow us to continue living our lives. “Thanks to Ezer Mizion, I started dealing with my situation, both on an individual basis and in a group framework. I received the tools and strength I needed in order to cope. To people who are in my position, I want to say: We did not choose these ‘gifts.’ Hashem chose them for us. He gives us the gifts and He also gives us the strength to deal with the situation. Whoever thinks he can escape reality and conceal it is mistaken. Ezer Mizion is my light in this saga. They help me achieve a better reality. They have shown me that it is possible to deal with my challenges in a better way.
There he was, unsure where to go but with a determined look on his face. He appeared at the office, said one of the Ezer Mizion directors, an eleven year old boy with Downs Syndrome, looking like he was on a mission. No one brought him to the Ezer Mizion building. He found it on his own, our single-minded hero, and all that remained was to accomplish his goal.
“Are you looking for someone?” I asked him.
“I want to say a giant ‘Thank you’ to Ezer Mizion for the Simchas Beis Hasho’eivah (holiday celebration) that you made on Succos (Feast of Tabernacles) . It was nice! I had so much fun.”
Touched to the core by his sincere words, I called in the rest of the staff and instinctively asked him to bless us. There he stood – a boy? an angel? – with his eyes closed, connecting to Hashem (G-d) in a way that we cannot conceive.
A small child falls and is immediately enveloped in a hug to make the boo-boo go away. An adult? We expect an adult to manage the ups and downs of life his own. Usually he can. But there are times when even the adult needs that hug and a shoulder to cry on.
Illness is like an earthquake for the family. From the moment of the diagnosis, Ezer Mizion embraces the family, encircling them in love and caring, assuring them that we are here for them at all hours of the day and night.
For more than a year, Eitan* has been undergoing treatments until that black day when he was told that the treatment was not having an effect and that he’d need to undergo a leg amputation. The news hit him like a ton of bricks. The one who stood at the side of Eitan and his family and escorted them through these difficult moments was Meir of Ezer Mizion Social Services department. “Due to corona, no one was allowed to visit him,” he relates. “They made an exception for Ezer Mizion staff. During the entire rehab process with the prosthesis, I was able to accompany him, helping him with the physiotherapy, passing the time with him, and raising his spirits.”
What’s on schedule this week?” a new recruit asks on an early Monday morning. She is too new to know we don’t have a precise schedule. Professional meetings, awareness events and the like are planned for but ultimately we try to be there for anyone in need. Doing what? Doing whatever is necessary to soothe the wounds of those who find themselves engulfed in life’s crises. To wipe the tears. To ease the pain.
Like the nine year old autistic child whose father just died of cancer. His mother is not functioning and he is currently living with his grandmother whose health does not permit her to continue caring for him. Such a sweet child who communicates fully with those around him. Sensitive, sociable, happy, smiley, likes music and animals, and, in short, he is suitable and needs a family framework. Ezer Mizion does not handle fostering but with its vast network, it can start the ball rolling and attempt to find him a home and avoid the government’s imminent threat of an institution.
What’s on schedule this week? MVA’s are not planned and when they happen, they wreak havoc with people’s lives. A minibus with yeshiva students turned over into a ditch Two of the more seriously injured passengers were on their way to Haifa’s Rambam Hospital in a helicopter. There are another 18 wounded in hospitals spread around the North.
Do you know where Kiryat Shemoneh is? Many people have never heard of it. It’s a-l-l the way up North in Israel. Somewhere out there at the far, far end of the country. Geographically so distant from the nearest metropolis. A bit lonely, perhaps, but certainly not alone. Even there, Ezer Mizion’s dedicated volunteer works hard to prepare Shabbat meals for a lonely patient, spiced with lots of love. She does it together with dozens of other volunteers, who share one giant heart. Together they arrange meals for patients and their families for weekdays and Shabbat, feeding dozens of patients, adults and children, dispersed throughout the North, from Netanya all the way up to Kiryat Shemoneh
It’s a talent. An innate ability found in only a few. The ability to notice. To really see. To understand what someone else needs. Only a few have it but the few can give it over to the many.
Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson who would be expected to be involved in his kallah and not be able to see anything outside of new marriage, was spending time with his hospitalized father-in-law and became aware of the many problems facing the families of the patients. It was there that several divisions of the future Ezer Mizion were born. What began with 8 volunteers to provide meals for family members spending hours at the hospital bedside and a professionally outfitted van to transport the wheelchair-bound has mushroomed into an empire of chessed with 30,000 volunteers, all who have absorbed Rav Chollak’s ability to really see and really care.
Like the recent fire in Jerusalem. People were being evaluated en masse. The need to evacuate was obvious and the volunteers were working hard. What wasn’t so obvious is the fact that a group of yeshiva students had not had anything to eat since the early morning. Moments after they arrived to safety, there appeared pizza pies galore. The starving boys never would have asked but grins on their faces showed how welcome the unexpected treat was.
Then there was Rina, a patient in the oncology ward. She was battling for her life but right now, uppermost in her mind, was her daughter who would normally be celebrating her bas mitzvah. What with all energies going toward fighting the cancer, this most special day was expected to pass with hardly a blip. But Rina was an Ezer Mizion client and that made all the difference. Professional studio pictures taken at her home. A sweet table to vie those at the fanciest event. A cake donated for the occasion by an elite patisserie. A makeup artist for both of them who would wield the wand and turn them into princesses. No detail was omitted by Shula, the volunteer who really saw and really cared.
One year. Two lives. Two members of the same family each saved a life by donating stem cells. Now they are waiting for their younger sister to be called to complete the circle.
Yael (23) was the first to donate. She was told that a man with leukemia needs a transplant. “It’s his only chance to survive and i am the only one in the world who can donate since I am a genetic match to him. Can you imagine how that made me feel?! What an opportunity! Most people can go through a lifetime without having such an opportunity. I was thrilled.
“Talya from Ezer Mizion walked me through the process and took care of every detail. Then came the day I was dreaming about – the day my cells would become part of a stranger whom I didn’t know but already felt close to. One day, completely unexpectedly – I was vacationing – Adi from Ezer Mizion sent me a letter from the recipient. There are no words to describe how I felt. It all became so much more real. ”