Sderot, an Israeli town near the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza, is not an easy place to live. Residents deal with the daily fear of tzevah adom, or “code red,” which sends the city residents running for cover in one of the many bomb shelters that dot the Sderot landscape. Bomb shelters are in parks, kindergartens, and at bus stops, all because one never knows when or where a terrorist rocket will hit.
However, none of this bothers Noach, an elderly Holocaust survivor receiving assistance from The Fellowship. While his social worker’s 20-year-old son is so traumatized from the rockets that he refuses to leave home, Noach laughs in the face of danger. Why? “I have lived through so much worse! Nothing scares me now,” he explains.
Noach lived through one of the darkest chapters in human history. As a survivor of the Holocaust, Noach understands the dangers of evil. He has even written a short book in Russian called Right in Front of Their Eyes, a title that signifies his horror at the fact that the Nazis committed their hateful actions in plain sight, and that the world, for the most part, did nothing to stop them. In particular, Noach refers to the day that the Nazis marched into his hometown in Belarus and rounded up all of the Jews in order to kill them. “The non-Jewish neighbors did nothing,” Noach remembers. “Many of them were quite happy about it.” The Jews, including Noach’s family, were marched into the forest and killed. Only by the grace of God did Noach escape.
Noach attributes his survival to his genes. “I had blond hair and blue eyes,” the now white-haired Noach explains. His blues eyes still peek out from underneath his drooping eyelids with power and conviction. “When the Germans asked me if I was Jewish or Polish, I told them I was Polish and they let me go.” Noach spent four years with a Polish family who was looking for help on its farm. Noach gladly took the position and never revealed his true identity as a Jew. He went to church and did his best to fit in. Noach was determined to survive – he trusted nobody but God.
Noach survived the war and made a home in northern Russia where he studied agriculture, married, and had several children, all while his family secretly lived as Jews. At the age of 60, Noach found out that there was a program to relocate Jews to friendlier countries. Noach could have chosen from a number of wonderful countries – the U.S., Canada, and others. But for Noach, there was only one country that would suit him. Noach chose Israel “because I am a Jew and this is where I belong!” he explains proudly.
After making aliyah (immigrating to Israel), Noach spent the rest of his working years planting trees in Israel. His life had turned from destruction to construction. After uprooting his family, Noach began to plant new roots in the Holy Land. Many years have gone by, and Noach’s wife has since passed away, but his descendants live on in Israel. Thanks to The Fellowship, Noach is able to spend his final years with security and dignity. Noach’s modest apartment is run down and the furniture has seen better days, but Noach feels quite blessed. “Thanks to The Fellowship, I can go to the store and buy what I need!” he exclaims.
Noach is so very grateful for his Christian friends, and he makes an important distinction between the Christian presence in his life today and those he encountered earlier on in his life. “Those people who stood by and did nothing to help us were not Christians. The Nazis were not Christians. For the Nazis, Hitler was God. They were not true Christians, because true Christians would never do what they did.”
Thanks to true Christians today, Noach can put the past behind him and live out his final years with fellowship, grace, and dignity.