It seemed like the umpteenth time that day that I was climbing steps to the top floor of an old apartment building in Jerusalem. This was a regular, monthly Bridge for Peace food delivery. But today was a special day—we three volunteers were bringing Purim gift baskets to these elderly Holocaust survivors. As I struggled up the stairs, wishing I’d made more of an effort to get in shape for this sort of thing, we encountered the very woman we had come to see. She too was struggling, slowly ascending the stairs just in front of us, burdened with a number of heavy bags that seemed to weigh her down. I offered to carry these for her and as I lifted these plastic bags from her old but strong hands I could see the lack of color in her fingers from carrying such a load.
We slowly finished the climb up to her apartment and she invited us in. As I entered her little hall I thought of how many days and years this precious woman had climbed these same stairs, up and down, and over again in an effort to meet all her daily needs. I felt ashamed for my own complaining thoughts. Invariably it seems many Holocaust survivors live on the top floor of their buildings—perhaps the rent is cheaper where there are no elevators; maybe too because the summer brings with it stifling heat to the upper apartments. Still this woman was gracious and grateful for what we had brought her, smiling widely and in generosity she even gave us a small box of cookies to take with us.
Invariably I’ve noticed on these deliveries, if the apartment contains one special piece of furniture, it’s a
large buffet and a glass-door hutch. This home was no exception and hers was filled with some lovely old pieces of china and glassware and mementos. Silk flowers perhaps left from a long ago Mothers’ Day bouquet, small faded photos in little tarnished silver frames. Everything meant something special to her. We stood briefly in front of a shadow-box frame filled with military medals and had our picture taken. Who knows what and who these medals represented? She does!
I know little about this lovely woman except that she is Jewish and that she survived the Holocaust and has made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. She now lives out her days in sparse but relative comfort, grateful for what she has and grateful for what we at Bridges for Peace can bring to her each month. We too are grateful for our donors who make help to these gifts possible.
—a Bridges for Peace volunteer
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