When 75-year-old Roza Yerushalmi succumbed to cancer last Friday, her widower, Alex, was worried that not enough people would come to her funeral to make a quorum for the mourner’s prayers.
He voiced his concerns to the Shorashim Shel Netina (Roots of Giving) non-profit organization for the benefit of Holocaust survivors, which had sent volunteers to visit him over the last year and a half.
It took one Facebook post, just 30 minutes before the funeral was scheduled to take place, to make sure Roza had a respectable burial.
Israelis are known for caring for one another and being the first to respond in times of emergency. During the past summer’s war, world media was astounded by the tens of thousands of Israelis who came from across the country to funerals of lone soldiers killed in action.
Some 200 people congregated at the Mazkeret Batya cemetery to bid farewell to Roza, a woman they had never met, and enable her husband of nearly 50 years to say Kaddish (mourner’s prayer).
But the heartwarming story doesn’t end there. It turns out that the social-media post went viral, and Israelis who couldn’t make the funeral were not about to let Alex sit shiva alone.
“People came from Haifa and from the South,” Segev Afriat, the volunteer who posted on the Shorashim Shel Netina Facebook page, told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper. “The answer to this call didn’t surprise me. When you tell the public that a Holocaust survivor will be sitting shiva pretty much by himself, the public won’t be apathetic. What has surprised me is the number of people.”
Indeed, hundreds of people have come to pay their respects to Alex. He, in turn, has taken the opportunity to tell his guests about his true love, how they met in the Ukraine in 1962 and immigrated to Israel 12 years later. He shows photos of their life together and tells about how they worked together as shoemakers.
The kind strangers – families, students and lone soldiers who say they identify with Alex’s feeling of aloneness — bring with them warm food, drinks and snacks.
“I’ve lived in Mazkeret Batya for 40 years, and my home has never been this full,” Alex told the newspaper. “It’s very good that there are so many people because it helps me feel not so alone. Everyone wants to help. I’ve never met so many good souls.”
Photo: Courtesy of Shorashim Shel Netina (Roots of Giving) Facebook page