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Sderot Senior Citizens Kollel

From Generation to Generation

The Yeshiva kollel for local retirees is now in its 7th year. About 20 retirees arrive each morning at the Yeshiva to study with our students.  Strong, unique bonds have been formed between these 70-something men and our 20-year-old students.  The students - who could be their grandchildren - are the teachers, and also spend time with them beyond the program's scheduled hours.  The retirees host the students at their houses on Shabbat; the students deliver mishloach manot to them on Purim.  Together, they share celebrations as well as times of trouble, serving as a model community of young and old living together in harmony. The program also includes extra "perks" such as parties and trips. 

Needless to say, the opportunity to be able to learn with a group of Yeshiva students is of tremendous value to the retirees; it gives them a respite from their fears during this tense time in Sderot.  For many of the men, their time learning in the kollel is the highlight of their day, giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment.

We make great efforts to arrange trips for the retirees and their wives as often as possible, and to plan celebrations to lift their spirits.  These men entered retirement after years of strenuous physical labor building the land of Israel.  Some of them came to Israel in the 1950's from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya and were placed in Sderot, which had just been established as a transit camp for new immigrants.

Interview with Amos Hassan:

Amos Hassan, 73, is one of the founders of the kollel.  Amos arrived in Israel by himself in 1949.  Several years later, his family followed and settled in a transit camp in Sderot.  He married and raised his own family in Sderot.

Amos worked in the oil drilling facility near Kiryat Gat.  After 30 years of hard physical labor, he retired, due to a work-related disability.  Upon entering this new phase of life, Amos would learn by himself in the Yeshiva each morning.  Several friends joined him, and soon, the joint effort became an actual kollel. 

"The Yeshiva is the light of Sderot," says Amos.  "I don't even want to think what things would be like if Rabbi Fendel had not come here to establish the Yeshiva."  Amos, who lives quite near the Yeshiva, says, "On Shabbat afternoons, during the traditional se’udah shlishit (third meal), my wife and I hear the powerful, melodious singing of the students and we realize how fortunate we are!"

In light of the Kassam rockets raining down daily, I asked Amos - who has lived in Sderot for many years –  whether he can recall any period as difficult as this one.  Amos responds that it was never like this.  "There were always incidents of Arabs breaking in and stealing, and once two people were even murdered, but there was never such an atmosphere of fear.  My son used to visit with my grandchildren every Shabbat – in the past few months, he has stopped coming.  His wife and children are afraid to visit their grandfather because of the Kassams.  My wife is afraid to go out to the market – you are constantly wondering if you should risk going outside.  This worry is always on your mind – it drives you crazy."
 
Amos explains that studying in the Yeshiva along with the other members of the kollel helps him deal with the tough times.  "The study sessions with the young men – their contagious joy as well as the Torah study itself – give us faith and strength to survive this difficult period.  I don't know how I and my family would have managed these days without the Yeshiva."

Amos says that he feels that the Yeshiva students are his children and grandchildren.  "I love them so much; they are so nice. They always help and greet me with a smile – these little things can change an entire city."  He offers his blessing: "For the Yeshiva to continue to grow and flourish, and for G-d to grant Rabbi Fendel, who has transformed this city, the strength and assistance to continue with all his good work.  We need you to remain strong."