(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Hanukka came in a few hours early at the President’s official residence on Tuesday, when President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama hosted a Hanukka party for some 130 cancer stricken children who were brought to the residence under the auspices of Rachashei Lev, an Ashdod headquartered national support center that was established in 1989 for child cancer patients and their families.
Racvhashei Lev is one of several organizations dedicated to helping children cope with the dreaded and often painful disease which weakens not only the body but the spirit.
Nearly all the organizations working to make life as interesting and full of fun as possible for child cancer sufferers have similar programs in which they provide free voluntary social, psychological and educational services for children of all backgrounds and ages both in and out of hospital. The fun includes vacations abroad at places such as Disney World in Orlando.
The Rivlins have a special affection for children, and during the president’s first half year in office, they have hosted different groups of children of varying religions, from different ethnic and socio economic backgrounds and with different needs.
The Rivlins sang the traditional Hanukka songs with the children and when the president joined one of the youngsters, Roi Ginat, in lighting the first Hanukka candle, he explained the importance of lighting it in front of the house, so that all passers-by could see its light and be reminded of the heroism and great achievements of the Maccabees. The Hanukka lights are a reminder to everyone that faith and hope are the foundations for all our deeds even in the darkest hours, said Rivlin.
“The Maccabees are the heroes of Jewish history,” Rivlin told the youngsters, “but you are the heroes of the present. Your struggle with your disease is no less a heroic of a struggle than that of the Maccabees.”
Emily Imbar, eleven-and-a-half, from Modi'in, who has been coping with cancer for four and a half years, shared some of her experiences and spoke of how her life had changed almost overnight. “I was a regular kid like anyone else. I liked to play in the park, to go to different groups, to play with my friends. I loved going to school. But then I found myself in hospital and instead of my teachers I was being taught by girls who were doing national service through Rachashei Lev, and my new friends were cancer patients just like me.”
Emily thanked the president and his wife on behalf of herself and the other children and said it was a privilege to be hosted by the presidential couple in Jerusalem on this special festival of miracles that symbolizes light and hope.
She said she prayed that a miracle would embrace her and all the other children and that next year they could return as healthy individuals.
Rachashei Lev cares for some 400 children with cancer each year.