Project Spotlight: Elderly Clubs

The Fellowship  |  June 4, 2019

Two men shaking hands while standing next to a coffee machine.

The Fellowship’s Ami Farkas meets an IDF war veteran at a Fellowship elderly club who tells him how grateful he is to Fellowship friends around the world for their support.

On a recent trip to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, I paid a visit to an elderly social club which The Fellowship has renovated. The center serves an elderly population comprised of elders from Yemen, Morocco, as well as many Holocaust survivors, who come to the center in order to escape the loneliness of their apartments, where they enjoy a variety of activities as well as a hot lunch served daily.

I’d spent a long time in the car driving to Sderot – and I needed a bit of caffeine to wake me up before my first interview. So I made my way to the coffee corner at the center. As I reached my hand to grab a cup for coffee, an older man with a short beard and a friendly demeanor beat me to it, grabbing the cup before I could.

“How do you like your coffee?” he asked. “I like mine black,” I replied. “Sugar?” he asked. “Sure!”

Then he held out his hand and introduced himself. “Hi I’m Shmuel nice to meet you,” he said with a gracious smile. I told him my name – Ami, and that I work for The Fellowship, and I could tell by his expression that he recognized our ministry.

The Fellowship does such great work in our community,” he explained. “From building bomb shelters, feeding the hungry, and providing solace for the elder community, I cannot be more grateful for what your organization has done.”

Huddled by the coffee table, I asked Shmuel what life is like in Sderot, which has seen some of the worst missile attacks in all of Israel, and where hundreds of rockets landed just a few weeks ago.

“It’s a difficult situation to say the least,” he began explaining. “There’s never a long period of quiet here in Sderot – we live from ceasefire to ceasefire.”

Shmuel is no stranger to conflict. He served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and has 29 jumps under his belt. He fought in the 1973, Yom Kippur War, and saw action in other mini wars on multiple fronts. After serving the army with honor, Shmuel served as a prison guard in Gaza, where some of the most notorious terrorists had served time.

“I knew them all,” he said as he started naming off terrorists whose names I recalled from the news. “Heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they were all under my command.”

In 2005, Israel pulled out of Gaza, and the prison where Shmuel worked shut down and the rest is history. Today, Shmuel is retired and lives in Sderot. He spends his days in the Fellowship elderly center, where he finds companionship, activities, and a daily hot meal.

“I live all alone. My kids all live far away, and are so busy trying to make ends meet that I rarely see them. I gave this beautiful country many years of my life, and now in my old age, I am so grateful for The Fellowship, and for the countless Christian friends of Israel who look out for an old vet like me.”