Over 2,000 World War II veterans and their descendants living in Israel will celebrate Victory Day (V-Day) on May 9—an occasion that recognizes the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. Organizations like Jewish National Fund-USA’s MAKOM Communities are also using the day to highlight the needs of Israel’s older adults and their unique requirements.
One individual who’s also marking V-Day is Lev Yilevitz. The Word War II veteran celebrated his 99th birthday in Beersheva this past week with MAKOM volunteers from Israel’s Mountain Jews community.
Yilevitz shared his story of growing up in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, and how he could not complete his studies due to the outbreak of the war. With great color and enthusiasm, he shared how he served as a pilot until 1976, which he said wasn’t typical for Jewish soldiers. Following his aviation career, he became a chemist and made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in 1990.
The Russian-speaking Mountain Jews from the Caucuses Mountains, who celebrated with Yilevitz, have taken it upon themselves to celebrate V-Day yearly in honor of war veterans living in Israel. And while Beersheva was primarily seen as a place to stop for gas on the way to Eilat when Yilevitz first immigrated, today, with the support of Jewish National Fund-USA’s philanthropic investments and MAKOM Communities, the city has become a thriving metropolis.
“MAKOM Communities is a unique organization based on volunteers who all share one thing: caring and doing for others,” said MAKOM director Shosh Mitzman. “Why do people want to be part of MAKOM? Because it gives them purpose and meaning. In a country that has experienced so many tragedies and hardships, as human beings, it is our duty to ensure that life in Israel is good—not only for me and my family but everyone in Israel—and especially, for older people like Lev Yilevitz. You can view it as tikkun olam, where every person we support is like helping an entire world. In essence, that’s what MAKOM is about, seeing the big picture and focusing on one person at a time, since together, we make a difference.”