For the third time in one week, a Shalom House event took place at the HHC Caesarea Villa. On February 21st, twenty survivors of the Holocaust from Children of War, based in Netanya, and forty-five visitors from Heights Church Arizona, who are on tour with Radiant Israel, congregated at the Villa for a time of entertainment, community, and encouragement.
Gilad and Magi Rosinger, Founders of Radiant Israel, began by welcoming the guests from Arizona to the Villa, inviting them to enjoy lunch, and describing what the afternoon’s event would entail. Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski, Co-Founders of Helping Hand Coalition, also gave a short speech about the work the organization has been doing in Israel to serve the survivors of the Holocaust, for the last thirteen years.
Just before the bus arrived with the survivors, Gilad told the group, “Today is about making an impact. I want you to soak in this time, and make an impact on these people.”
As if welcoming a newly married bride and groom into the reception, the guests lined up on two sides, clapping and giving their greetings as each survivor walked up the front steps before entering the Villa’s foyer. With the living room filled with an energized and enthusiastic group, the concert commenced with Gilad introducing the survivors to the tour group.
Performing for the audience, Magi Rosinger played the piano and sang a compilation of well-known Hebrew, along with a few English songs, so everyone had the chance to join in. During the concert, Magi sang Yerushalayim Shel Zantac (Jerusalem of Gold), the unofficial national anthem of Israel, and Halikha Lekesariya (also known as Eli Eli), a song many survivors sing on Memorial day that was written in Caesarea by a Hungarian Jew named Hannah Szenes.
Just before the survivors were served lunch, Ron Merrell, the family pastor at Heights Church, was asked to say a few words. He said, “I am deeply hurt and sorry for the things you went through; but, I also want to tell you that we love you, and we’re here for you to stand with you. We’re here to serve you, and if we could, we’ll give you a hug before we go today.”
As lunch was enjoyed, the guests began talking with the survivors to learn more about them. One guest told a survivor, through translation, that his grandparents had been Russian, and they’d left before the start of the war. It was a joy to watch each group connect and communicate with one another; you could see the appreciation on everyone’s faces as they served the survivors.
When asked if any of the survivors would like to share about their experiences in the war, Boris Kogan walked to the front to give an abridged version of his story. He shared about being sixteen when the war began in the Soviet Union, and how his family’s home was taken over by Germans within a week of their invasion. Two years after the start of the war, in 1943, Boris was recruited into the Russian army, where he served as a top artillery commander, receiving medals of the highest honor.
At the end of Boris’ testimony, Mila Fleitman, leader of the Children of War, asked Evgeniy (Zenia), Chairman of the group, to share a few words. Enduring the siege of Leningrad, fighting in the war, and imprisoned in a ghetto, Evgeniy has many stories to share; however, rather than talking about himself, he told the group that he wanted to get to know the guests. Asking for the music to play, the ninety-six-year-old leaped for joy when Magi began singing Hava Nagilla.
The Villa echoed with the singing, laughing, and clapping as the audience got up to dance together. Andre also took a turn tickling the ivories of the piano while Karen Gower and Magi sang. With hearts filled with love, everyone thanked Helping Hand Coalition and Radiant Israel for organizing and hosting such an event. Their first day in the Land of Israel, many in the tour group shared how impactful and surprising their time at the Shalom House event had been. They told Helping Hand Coalition’s team members that the afternoon had touched them and emotionally influenced their lives. Some even said that it would be the best part of the tour and an event they would not forget!
Helping Hand Coalition is grateful for its partnership with Radiant Israel and would like to thank them for sponsoring and hosting this event. Also, thanks to Children of War for your warmth and open hearts whenever you come to the Villa for Shalom House events. The event was also made possible by Helping Hand Coalition’s team, so thanks to them as well!
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