Maria is an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in the community of Avshalom, just four miles from the Gaza border. She still remembers having to flee her home in Belarus as the Nazi armies advanced during World War II. Maria and her parents survived, but others were not so lucky. "My grandmother and my mother's seven siblings remained behind," she says. "They were all killed."
Maria returned to her village after the war to find that it had been utterly destroyed. She had no other choice but to move on with her life. Eventually, she got married and had children. Finally, in 1991, with the fall of the communist regime in the former Soviet Union, she had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Israel.
Maria says that life in Israel was quiet until Hamas took began terrorizing and traumatizing the innocent people of her town with incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. "We live in a prefabricated house without any safe rooms or bomb shelters," she says. "The nearest shelter is more than a block away. When the rockets start falling we have 15 seconds in order to reach the shelter. Do you know what a terrible feeling it is to be afraid in your own home?"
Maria also struggles with poverty. Since her sole income is a tiny government pension, she makes barely enough to money to survive. But she speaks of the joy and comfort that The Fellowship gave her before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and during the 2009 war in Gaza, when a gift from The Fellowship's Guardians of Israel program covered the cost of her food and "made me feel like a queen."
Maria is very grateful for this assistance that has so greatly improved her life. "If I have one message," she says, "it's that your help is invaluable. About a third of the people here in Avshalom are retirees with little or no income. It's such a blessing to know that the world has good people like Rabbi Eckstein and the Fellowship's donors." Give a gift to Guardians of Israel today »