After finishing high school, I decided to go to Israel and volunteer at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran for eight months. It was the most intense and exciting time of my life. I had the opportunity to meet many people and to feel part of a much greater whole.
What excited me most was the relationship with the residents. Their disabilities vary, and you cannot expect them to respond or react to what you say or do. Yet, I learned to look beyond their appearance and to perceive the individual personality of each one of them. My friendship with some residents went far beyond the ordinary – sometimes they just wanted to hold my hand in the morning, showing their trust and appreciation. Another resident, who is only able to say “mama,” almost managed to say my name.
It was a great pleasure for me to meet my new friends at ALEH every morning. I would never have thought that they could enter and touch my heart the way they did. Furthermore, I had wonderful colleagues who became friends, showing me how to care for, respect and appreciate the neediest people – as this was my first experience with people with disabilities.
Moreover, I did not come as a private person, I came as a representative of “Marsch des Lebens” (March of Life) with a special story to tell, which touched the heart of many. I came as a reminder of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by my ancestors and people. I came to reconcile, to do good, to atone for the past and to stand as a friend of Israel against antisemitism. I had several opportunities to tell my story. The responses and reactions were very special, as the Holocaust is very present in Israel, a land build by Holocaust survivors, where almost every family has a connection to this tragedy. Some broke down in tears and thanked me for sharing my story, and personal contact – that I would never have expected – was created.
In conclusion, I can only say thank you for the life-changing time I experienced at ALEH.