Orna Raz

Day 54 of The War: Even Without A Language

A lot is happening at once in our tiny restaurant
A lot is happening at once in our tiny restaurant

On November 11th, I posted here about Neta Heiman Mina, whose mother, Ditza Heiman (84), was kidnapped by Hamas to Gaza. Last night, on the 5th day of the ceasefire for hostages exchange, Ditza Heiman was released along with 11 other hostages. So Neta and the families of the released hostages can breathe a little easier, but we still dread the thought about the destiny of the 159 hostages who are still held in Gaza.

This week, at the vegan restaurant where I volunteer packing meals for soldiers, we  bid farewell to several friends who came from abroad to contribute to the war effort, and next week one of our beloved chefs will finally return to the US. He came to Israel right after the war broke out and spent every day at the restaurant working really long hours, making vegan food for the soldiers.

Fifty Four days have passed since the war began, but things have not gone back to normal. The reserved duty soldiers are still among the fighters, many institutions and stores remain closed, and the academic year in the universities has yet to start. Just the other day, we went to a cafe around 4 PM and were told they were closing because they didn’t have the staff to remain open in the evening.

Yet, there are still many hopeful stories of volunteering. Earlier this week two elderly ladies came to the restaurant wanting to volunteer. One of them knew a few words in Hebrew, and the other knew none at all. Even without a common language (I don’t speak Russian), they found something useful to do. At first, I tried to find something for them to do while sitting down. However, after a short time, Jana, who knew a few words, expressed her wish to join the team stuffing the pita bread: So, they both joined, and worked standing on their feet for several hours. Today, Lucia, the lady who didn’t know a word in Hebrew, came on her own and again found her place, working several hours. Later Vera, another elderly lady who knew no Hebrew, only Russian, came on her own asking to do something. By that time, I understood that even elderly new immigrants, who most likely escaped the war in Ukraine, wish to feel useful in their new homeland. It gave me hope about the goodness of people, and about the resilience and generosity of older people who are determined to do whatever they can, with or without a language. Ultimately, they didn’t come to our place to talk.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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