Breakthrough Solidarity Mission: On The Ground in Ashkelon - Part 2

This column was written by Dan Brown, founder of, and is crossposted to that esteemed Web site.

We often hear about support programs for children and young adults. But this leaves out an entire segment of the population, the elderly residents with their own specific needs - especially in times of crisis. In Ashkelon, this represents a significant percent of the population.

The next stop on our travels was to one of the sheltered housing projects managed by JAFI's subsidiary company Amigour - this one in the Neve D'kalim neighborhood of Ashkelon. One of 15 centers in Israel that is home to Holocaust survivors, the funding was provided in equal commitments by the Israeli government, the Claims Conference and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc. of suburban Baltimore.

We received a warm welcome from the residents who entertained us with songs and stories of their lives. And we learned something very interesting. With all the work being done by Yad Vshem, it seems there were no stories of Russian survivors. From Hungary, Poland and other eastern European countries, yes. But Russia was one large void.

Yad Vshem approached Amigour with the idea of collecting strories from twenty survivors for their archives. Before they knew it, the twenty became a thousand, and fifty beautiful books were put together with photographs and stories of pre-WWII Russia. More interestingly, Yad Vshem became aware of history they did not know. We heard from two of the residents about their own personal and moving experiences growing up and living in Russia.

The residents' reaction to the war in Gaza fell almost evenly in two; for some, memories of the Battle of Stalingrad - for this group, the Gaza war was nothing. A minor skirmish on the landscape. For others, it meant reliving all the bad memories of WWII - where there is still pain all these years later.

- Dan Brown

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