The phone rings at Ezer Mizion. Calls come all day, usually from people undergoing horrific crises. This time there was a smile in the voice of the caller. A young boy had completed his chemo treatments and his Bar Mitzvah was coming right up. There was no time to prepare. Can Ezer Mizion help? ’We’d love to,’ the rep answered, happy to be part of a joyful event. As soon as the call ended, the phone was again pressed into service. Volunteers were needed asap. A sweet table including a personalized Bar mitzvah cake. And petit fours. And creative pastries galore. And drivers to deliver. And volunteers to set up tastefully with elegant tableware. And a popular singer. And a keyboard player. And a gift of a fancy watch presented by the director of Ezer Mizion’s Community Cancer Support Division And…and. Yitzchok, our hero, danced and danced…round and round, holding the hands of everyone who loved him while the guests cried tears of joy, of gratitude, of hope, of prayer.
The two go hand in hand. Chemotherapy and emotional therapy. A patient’s spirits become a powerful partner in the battle against illness. While Ezer Mizion is not able to provide chemotherapy, we search every nook and cranny for ways to bring joy to the patient and his family. The creativity of the professional staff supported by thousands of dedicated volunteers are in the business of manufacturing smiles on the faces of those who haven’t smiled in days.
Shoshi Charmatz, mother of six, has been battling cancer for seven years. Shoshi attends Ezer Mizion’s visual arts therapy workshop and the artwork she has created is currently on display at Ezer Mizion’s visual arts workshop exhibit. Shoshi’s called her moving work of art “The Surviving Tree and me.”
As part of her battle with the cancer that struck her body, Shoshi underwent treatments in New York. On her way to one of the treatments, she encountered the “Surviving Tree,” a lone tree located near the site of the Twin Towers that survived the 9/11 terrorist attack.
“My encounter with the tree was powerful,” she relates. “The tree survived the horrific attack on the city and was cleared from among the ruins. It underwent rehabilitation at a special farm, received infusions of rehabilitative substances, and eventually returned to life and to its original place. I really identified with what the tree had endured.
“At Ezer Mizion’s visual arts workshop, I created my tree, which portrays my journey to recovery with the treatments I am undergoing, far from my family but enveloped in love and filled with hope for growth and full recovery.
“Ezer Mizion and the workshop have a major part in my recovery process, an island of sanity and creation. They are my miracle.”
Oranit, Ezer Mizion’s Cancer patient Support Center, provides professional and volunteer support to patients and their families and envelops them with love.
Imagine long days of loneliness at home, days of sickness, compounded by boredom and fear.
The Corona period has decreed this kind of reality on many patients and their families. A reality of sitting at home for long stretches of time in fear due to their illness and in loneliness due to Corona.
At these dark and dreary moments, the Linked to Life volunteers go into action.
The Nidam family from Netivot has isolated itself of its own accord for many long months so as not to endanger the health of the father of the family, who is a cancer patient.
At Linked to Life Southern Region, they decided to take the family out for a fun outing. Avi Pedida, a jeep driver, volunteered to go out with the family for an unforgettable day.
The day began with a luxurious breakfast prepared by a group of Linked to Life volunteers in Netivot. From there, the family went on to a hike in the Negev Mountains. They rode horses and enjoyed a swim in a private pool. They finished off the action-packed day with a scrumptious cookout. “”Words are not enough to thank the Ezer Mizion Linked to Life volunteers,” said the father of the family. “They escort and support us in the most complex moments. They are our light in this very difficult period.”
Linked to Life is a network of Ezer Mizion volunteers who work through a Whatsapp app to provide aid to patients and their families, delivering medicines, equipment, and stem cell tests, among other assignments. Ezer Mizion’s Linked to Life network numbers 10,000 volunteers in Israel with many more dedicated members abroad.
It happens in many families. There are times when Abba is involved in a major business crisis and Mommy has to hold up the fort. Or it can be Mommy who has to rush out of town due to a sick parent and it is Father that is left to take charge. But both parents? During a pandemic? With a Bar Mitzvah coming up? And a forlorn, young boy left to deal with is confused feelings with no support?
The logistics of making a Bar Mitzvah were out of the question. The father was recuperating from major surgery. The mother was battling cancer. There was no new hat to secretly try on for the 453rd time, no notebook filled with lists. This major milestone was scheduled to happen with nary a blip. The parents’ complicated medical sagas occupied every iota of their minds and emotions. But parents remain parents even under such difficult circumstances and idea began to sprout. A celebratory trip to the kosel for the three of them. Their son would love it. They knew that. But the idea was next to impossible to execute. Only ambulance travel would make sense but hiring an ambulance at such a time with no money coming in and expenses so high was out of the question.
A garbage truck stops and its driver jumps out. He had noticed a familiar car on the road. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a generous bill he had been saving, hands it to Maor Cohen and, in seconds he is back at his job. “What’ s this?” Maor call s out.
“For the children. The children with cancer at Ezer Mizion. To buy them a lego set.”
I will never, ever, ever forget my first visit to the oncology ward. It was a traumatizing place to be for a young high school girl but how could I not have visited my little sister, Chevy! So I stared at all the children with bald heads. ‘That won’t happen to Chevy, will it?’ i whispered to myself, still blissfully unaware of what no young girl – or even adult – should know about. When I got home, I pulled out a picture of Chevy and, with my fingers, covered up her long, dark wavy hair, still pretending it will never happen but preparing myself just in case.
It happened. After the second treatment. Chevy said she feels as if she is carrying her hair. When I tried to brush it for her, big clumps came loose. We ended up with an immense pile of hair which Chevy thought was funny. ‘Lets make a funeral’, she giggled. ‘What should we use for a talis?’
Oh , Chevy, if you would only have known what is to come. But none of us did. The treatments ended. We were so happy. Chevy’s numbers were good and things looked bright. It had been such a difficult time for the whole family. Without Ezer Mizion, I don’t see how we could have made it through. They were everywhere. They gave us rides to the hospital, let us live in this really nice apartment that was near the treatment center so we couldn’t have to travel. There was therapy for all of us kids – such fun therapy with music, sand play, crafts, and even a petting zoo. There was psychological help, hot, delicious meals, parties and trips. And most of all they enveloped us with such love. They seemed as happy as we were that it was almost over.
I am the grandmother of Uri who — thanks to you — celebrated his bar mitzvah in the Corona hotel.
I cannot begin to describe the difficulties of this period— the difficulty of planning a bar mitzvah for a boy who is so looking forward to his big day, and then, a week before the occasion, he, his parents and his siblings experience symptoms of Corona, test positive, and are compelled to evacuate to a Corona hotel… All we could do was to focus on praying for their recovery and strengthening our faith that this is G-d’s will and that all is for the best.
None of us dreamed that so many good people would rally on our behalf and organize such a stupendous, lively event! What a fantastic job!!! What efforts to make one boy happy on his big day! You thought of everything: a huge “Mazel Tov” sign; balloon arrangements; a dessert table with fancy cakes, chocolates, petit fours, candies and more and more; a big festive meal for all the patients at the hotel; music, including a keyboard player and singers; and behind the scenes — all the planners, the cooks, the electric technicians, helpers, coordinators — you name it!
And as for us? We will never be able to sufficiently thank you for the joy you brought to Uri and the entire family.
In 1979, Rav Chananya Chollak, then newly married, founded a small organization of 8 volunteers because he saw a need and wanted so much to give. His attitude has filtered down to the thousands of Ezer Mizion staff and volunteers of what is now known as an empire of chessed. New departments crop up as a new need is identified. The above letter is one of hundreds received in response to help given during the corona crisis.
The Cancer Support Division provides a variety of professional, emotional and practical assistance. Like the planters. A group of children whose mothers are battling cancer needed an emotional outlet. Emotions are funny things. They don’t always make sense. The children have a powerful need to give. But what can they give? It must be something meaningful. A frustrated need brings bitterness. A need properly channeled can bring fulfillment and positivity into the family relationship. And so the children were taught the rudiments of carpentry and produced planters, each filled with seedlings of love, watered by a tearful prayer for a speedy cure. Can one begin to imagine the joy of the child presenting the gift to his mother, her joy at receiving a ‘piece of his heart’ both culminating in an overflow of family togetherness!
It’s catchy, that feeling of giving. At age 15, Moshe Israeli was diagnosed with bone cancer. During those incredibly trying times, Ezer Mizion was there to help Moshe and his family with food deliveries, medicine runs, hospital visits and so much more! Fast forward almost 30 years and Moshe now manages Ezer Mizion’s Petach Tikveh branch.
Due to COVID-19, many high risk patients are left with no support or help for their everyday needs. Moshe has organized some 2,800 volunteers to help the elderly, the immuno-compromised and those in desperate need as the pandemic continues its disruptive path. Food has been packaged, medicine has been delivered so those in need can receive practical support as well as equally important emotional support, all from a distance.
“Think, everyone, think!” she cried out. “There has to be something! Something we can do even in the midst of corona.” We all sat there. We’re normally a creative bunch but the ideas were just not coming. Every year we hosted a retreat for families dealing with cancer. It was the highlight of the year for them, a time to bond with their family, good food, fun entertainment – a vacation from cancer. Away from hospitals and tests and treatments. Something to put a smile on faces that almost forgot how. It meant everything to the families whom, in addition to the medical situation, were suffering so much emotionally with many family relationships on the verge of collapse. Continue reading Think!
A non-profit holds a Chinese auction. Employees are asked to go above their job description and contact friends and relatives to purchase tickets. And what is their reaction? Eye rolling? Whispered complaints at being put upon? Attempts to get away with a minimum? Or none of the above? The Ezer Mizion staff would be shocked at such suggestions. Each request sent out by employees to friends had a note attached, many entitled ‘Why We Work Here’. Here are some samples:
At Ezer Mizion, somehow, cancer always takes center stage. The bald head, the boy with the bulging eyes, together with the fear that lurks deep in the heart of every one of us. My job is coordinating rides. Not front page material. But for the young mother spending months in the hospital with her preemie, it meant a breather every so often, time to spend with her other kids.
Running such a system of transport, meals— costs money. And this money has to come from people like me and you. From people who can understand why the transport system is a lifesaver, and how, with a hot meal, you can give someone life and hope.Continue reading Why We…