Survivors of Arab villages spend an unforgettable Shabbos at Yad L'Achim's hostel
The hostel that Yad L'Achim recently opened in Jerusalem to serve as a getaway for survivors of Arab villages is now being used to introduce these women, and their children, to the beauty of Shabbos.
During the week, the hostel is a warm home that is staffed with social workers and offers an array of activities for both women and children. These include Rosh Chodesh parties, summer camp programs, magic shows, therapy sessions and more. "When the mothers are getting help with their issues or participating in a class on how to take challah, we run activities for the kids," explains a senior Yad L'Achim official. "The place is always hopping with activity."
But on Shabbos the hostel takes on a whole new meaning. The fridge is filled with sumptuous foods, the beds are made, the table is set, candles are waiting to be lit. The women and their children arrive to spend an unforgettable Shabbos in Jerusalem with their "hosts," the Yad L'Achim staffers who take care of them during the week.
In the safe, surreal atmosphere of Shabbos, the women are free to talk openly about their struggles. The children are kept busy with games, organized walking tours of the area, and a well-stocked library.
The experience provides a perfect opportunity for them to see how a religious family functions throughout Shabbos, from start to finish, as the Yad L'Achim staffers are joined by their families. More often than not, the children will tell their mothers, "We want more Shabbatot like this."
The opportunity to live Shabbos to its fullest often inspires them to embark on a new path in their own homes.
The emotional highpoint comes when the children of the survivors join the children of the hosts in singing zemiros at the Shabbos table. "Who would have believed that these children, who once spoke only Arabic, would be singing Hashomer Shabbos haben im habas lakeil yeiratzu kmincha al mahcavas," said one mother, her eyes filling with tears. "Sometimes it seems like a dream."
One of the survivors expressed her feelings at the end of Shabbos. "I felt as if I were being hosted by you, but in my home," she told the social worker. "That's because Yad L'Achim's hostel is my home."
Officials note that the children are eager to return for additional Shabbos experiences, and stress that the hostel is living up to the organization's expectations and justifying the substantial investment.
"These aren't just four walls," said one official. "This is a warm, home environment that together with the kedushah of Shabbos and the magical atmosphere of Jerusalem contributes enormously to the spiritual progress of the survivors."