Chanuka evokes crisp, cold nights glowing with candlelight and laughter. For other people. Not in the oncology department of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.
Chanuka, a time of light in the darkness, can be a lonely when you are receiving treatment for the most devastating of illnesses. One of the worst things about staying in the hospital is that the lights never really go off. Sure, the hallways dim at night, but the vague electric buzz of working machinery and low-grade anxiety never quite go away. While others are celebrating with their families in the homey glow of the menora, cancer victims struggle to sit up and look out the hospital windows at the dark Jerusalem hills.
Every Friday, Yad Eliezer social services director Milka Benziman and a team of volunteers visit the hospital to distribute cake and friendship to warm patients through Shabbat. Yad Eliezer’s Medical Support Program provides company, good advice, and a listening ear to the ill every day all year long. But because holidays mean even more, they can be even lonelier. They say that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. When loneliness, hunger, and other social ills hurt the most, Yad Eliezer gets going.
Chanuka is no exception. Milka’s daughter Giti brings her guitar, and her friend Leah brings her clarinet. Companies like Ahava donate hand creams and other small Chanuka gifts for Yad Eliezer to distribute through the oncology department. Going room to room with the gifts and music, the light of Chanuka is brought back into cancer victim’s lives.
One year Yad Eliezer arranged a concert with a professional singer who volunteered to travel in from Beitar. “We decorated the department common room and lit the menora,” Milka described. “People sitting in wheelchairs with IVs clapped and sang. This was their Chanuka.” Another time Yad Eliezer arranged a glass-painting activity for Chanuka. For those who couldn’t make it to the common room, Yad Eliezer volunteers went room to room with delicate glass baubles and paint brushes.
“They get tears of joy in their eyes,” Milka admits. “People talk about their memories of being at home with the candles, with their families. These people don’t know whether they will ever spend another Chanuka at home, or even another Chanuka at all. They tell us that we have brought them the joy of the holiday.” Without Yad Eliezer, many of Jerusalem’s adult cancer patients would have nothing to look forward to over Chanuka but the smell of antiseptic and the buzz of machinery.
You make the difference. This Chanuka, light up a life with Yad Eliezer.