Everybody was busy at home cleaning for the upcoming Passover holiday – except Hannaton Mechina students. They were busy cleaning homes for other people. This tradition started a few years back in the Mechina, when students decided to go out to local towns and cities and offer their services to those in need. Each year, they take a day and help the elderly and other individuals who cannot take care of their own homes clean and prepare for Passover. Maayan, one of the organizers of the day, says: “We think it’s a mitzvah to go out and help others clean. The holiday isn’t only about physical freedom, but about freeing ourselves from all kinds of burdens, including the clutter and dirt in our lives”.
On April 2, the Hannaton Mechina went out to Haifa and Upper Nazareth to begin the day, helping elderly couples, people living alone with disabilities. Most individuals were living in poverty, with little help from the outside. The Mechina team in charge of the program received names from the municipalities social workers and over the course of one day, went to 17 different homes in the two cities. Joining the Hannaton Mechina were 15 participants from another mechina, HaEmek, and eight members of NOAM currently doing a year of volunteer service in Haifa (this group will be coming to Hannaton, along with four other groups of NOAM volunteers currently serving in Carmiel, Kfar Saba, Kibbutz Ketura and Jerusalem).
There was plenty of work for everyone. Some apartments had so much mold or dust it was difficult to breather. Teams worked all day to scrape off mold, repaint, fix broken windows and even holes in the walls. “We brought food to some people who had almost nothing in their homes” says Maayan. Many of the Mechina participants walked away with a stronger sense of responsibility and want to return and want to add this to the list of regular volunteer work next year.
The support for the day involved the whole Hannaton community. Over the last weeks, the Mechina students and graduates of the Mechina turned to Hannaton families for financial donations and for equipment. “We raised a little money, about $230, but people gave us so much equipment, such as paint and cleaning materials. We received a lot of materials from Hannaton but we also received donations from businesses in Haifa and in nearby towns. People were really generous”.
Those receiving the help were pleased, if not a little surprised. “At first, they didn’t understand why we wanted to help them. They couldn’t believe we would do it just out of kindness.” But the openness of the Mechina students and their willingness to give was clear when they came to the homes. In one home, where the owner spoke only Russian, the students put on classical music while they worked. The owner was so excited by the music, everyone started dancing with her. “This was the other goal we set out for ourselves when we started the project” says Maayan. “We know that it’s not easy to get old in Israel and it’s not just about the things you can and cannot do. It’s also about the human connection. It’s about being with people who needed us”.