Once a week on Monday afternoons my friend Maya and I take a bus to a Holocaust Survivors Center in Haifa to volunteer. The Holocaust, or the Shoah in Hebrew, is a sensitive topic in Israel and there are only a few thousand still alive, both in Israel, the United States, and around the world. The State of Israel was founded in 1948 in the aftermath of WWII, and the Holocaust was one of the driving forces in creating the country. Thus, the government of Israel goes to great lengths to protect and care for its Holocaust survivors.
That background sets the state for the kind of experience I have every week. The survivors have an entire community within a neighborhood in Haifa just for them, including a community center, doctors office, apartments, and a dining room. Volunteers like myself come all the time everyday to help care for them. My job every week is to help prepare dinner in the kitchen, and then eat dinner with the survivors at the dinner table.
It's not a very hard job, which allows me to spend a lot of time with them every week. Another great thing about the center is that most of them never learned English and they speak Hebrew really slowly, so it's a great chance for me to get to practice my Hebrew (since most Israelis speak to you in English once they know you're American). Most importantly though, it's a great chance to hear their stories. There aren't that many Holocaust survivors left, and it's really important for me as a Jew, but also as a human being, to hear their stories before they are all gone.