November 14, 2008
Hotel as Home
Travelers who visited Jerusalem many years ago will remember the famous Diplomat Hotel where luxurious suites and beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides could catch your breath. As often happens to hotels that are not properly maintained, the Diplomat lost its luster, fell into disrepair and eventually became an absorption center where (mostly) Russian olim (immigrants) settled in single rooms that still offered those amazing views, but not much else. The elderly residents were grateful for the chance to live in Israel and somehow overlooked the cramped quarters where they had but four walls and a bathroom in which to spend their days.
Life for these people-many were formerly teachers and doctors and professors and scientists before they left the FSU for better times in Israel-changed dramatically when a former Canadian named Alice Jonah happened to offer to fill in as a volunteer for a friend who was an activity director at the "hotel-turned-home". It turned out that the friend never returned to the Diplomat and Alice became an integral part of life there. Working first as a volunteer and then as an employee, Alice turned this little village into a caring community. She instituted an ulpan (Hebrew language class), a beautiful choir that performs throughout the country, exercise classes, computer lessons, trips-meaningful social and cultural opportunities for the residents to enjoy. At one time, Alice actually organized the group to protest the Egged bus company’s refusal to move the bus stop closer to the hotel so that the elderly residents did not have to climb a steep hill to reach the buses that would take them to other parts of the city. As expected, the protest was successful and the bus stop was moved closer to the hotel’s entrance!
Perhaps, Alice’s greatest achievement was the formation of a group of residents who became "home health aides" for the weaker residents who needed a few hours of extra care each day. To Alice (and the residents) this was a win-win situation. Using donated funds, Alice was able to pay a modest wage to those who offered their help (who live and the recipients benefited from the extra care they received daily.
When Alice wrote today mentioning that her funds to underwrite this very important activity were running low, we were happy to be able to tell her that we would forward additional money to keep this truly important activity going. It helps everyone!