Recently, a couple other Fellowship staff members and I met with Malka and Tikva. Within the past year The Fellowship has begun to help these two brave women through our With Dignity and Fellowship program. Prior to this assistance with food, medicine, and companionship, they had been facing life’s hardships completely alone.
This is a significant time to be meeting with these elderly women. With both Memorial Day and Independence Day, this is the most "Israeli" week of the year. It's also a time for soul-searching, looking at the past and dealing with the difficulties of the present.
Malka, who lives in Migdal Haemek, is sitting in her unkempt yard, surrounded by Israeli flags, when we reach her home. Her family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from Iraq in the 1950s, and, like hundreds of thousands of new immigrants at that time, they lived in a tent camp in an area that developed into a city. After the sudden and unexpected death of her parents, Malka was left alone with five younger siblings. "There was only one thing that was important to me – sending them to study,” she says. “That's what I've done all my life – pushed others to succeed. I was left behind. I didn't learn anything. I'm proud of my family. Against all odds, we've established a legacy I’m quite proud of."
Abraham Hido, one of Malka's younger brothers, was a senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer. In 1985, he was killed in battle with terrorists in Lebanon. Malka shares her family stories in one long breath, but when she tries to talk about her fallen brother, the words get caught in her throat. She turns to look into her little house, where all of the walls are filled with pictures of her brother, the hero. Today we remember him with her.
Next we travel north to Tzfat to meet with Tikva, who lost two brothers in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Near Lake Galilee, we pass under a bridge named for Colonel Abraham Hido. The same Colonel Hido we just heard all about from his proud older sister, Malka. This could only happen in tiny Israel, a country full of both bravery and bereavement.
Tikva (which means “hope”) and her family have lived in Tzfat for 12 generations. It's hard to find Israelis with such deep roots in the land. The few defenders of Tzfat waged bitter battles with the Arab fighters who conquered large parts of the city. Tikva remembers the days of despair 67 years ago when Israel was fighting to establish and maintain statehood. "There was a lack of water, little food, and constant fear,” she recalls. “These days Israel has a large army with fighter jets from America. It's impossible to explain to the younger generation just how few and weak we were. We believed in the righteousness of our cause and had faith in God."
Tikva's father, Jacob, fought in many battles. The front was so close to home that he would return home every few days. During one of his visits, army officers came to their house to report that his son, Simon, Tikva's brother, had been killed during a battle in the city. A few months later the family was informed that another brother, Chaim, had been killed in battle on another front. "You ask yourself how you're going to deal with this type of double tragedy," says Tikva. "Then the war ended, the state was established, reconstruction of the city began, and things slowly returned back to normal.” A new normal without her beloved brothers.
Tikva and her husband opened a roadside restaurant on the main highway. For 30 years they served soldiers on their way to the northern front. "Some of them ate their last supper in our restaurant," Tikva says with a wistful look. Today she, and all of Israel, pauses to remember and give thanks for the courageous men and women who traveled to the front, whichever front they were called to, and fought selflessly to defend this tiny, holy nation.
-by Gil Tevet, a Fellowship staff member