Keeping Faith Alive Amid War

The Fellowship  |  December 13, 2023

Hanukkah, Candles, Yael Eckstein, elderly, food box
(Photo: Chen Schimmel)

“The current war in Israel brings me back to my childhood.”

That’s Lilia, who fled the Nazis when she was just a one-year-old girl. Her mother used to tell her that when World War II broke out, her father was immediately drafted into the army. And just days before the Nazis came to occupy their town, her mother fled with Lilia in her arms and boarded an evacuation train. Bombs fell overhead and shrapnel shattered the windows of their train. When Lilia’s mother looked down at her little girl, she saw blood covering Lilia’s face.

“I was not responding at all—not crying or anything,” Lilia says. “My mother screamed because she thought I had been hurt. I think I kept quiet because even as a baby I was just terrified of what had happened.”

This time, as war comes to Israel, she tells us she’s not afraid. “I know that these are our planes that are doing everything to protect us,” she says. Lilia chose to stay in her home in Sderot, which is in southern Israel near Gaza, as she’s lived there 25 years after making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) from Ukraine. The Holy Land—Sderot—is her home.

Thankfully, Fellowship volunteers call her frequently to check up on her, and Lilia receives food deliveries regularly. Just prior to Hanukkah, she received a visit from our very own Yael Eckstein; and as Lilia’s only daughter passed away from cancer 12 years ago, this visit was very special.

“When I was a child in the former Soviet Union, we were not allowed to celebrate the Jewish holidays,” explains Lilia. “I felt lonely and I’m so happy that you’re lighting the holiday candles together with me.”

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