In a large, spacious, party venue, 600 survivors of the Holocaust and 120 guests from around the world came together to celebrate Hanukkah. The event, organized by Shalom Israel, who has been partnering with Helping Hand Coalition for over a decade, was full of joy, hope, unity, and life, putting a smile on everyone’s faces and impacting the lives of those in attendance. Music was enjoyed, dancing shoes were put on, and hearts overflowed with love and appreciation.
On December 15th, at a venue called Armonia, located in Tiberias, an annual Hanukkah event was hosted. Partnering with Helping Hand Coalition for the tenth year, Pastor George Annadorai, Founder and Chairman of Shalom Israel, with his wife, Mano Annadorai, joined the celebrations, bringing a group of guests from the Asia Pacific region. Greeting the survivors as they walked through the door, Shalom Israel’s group waved flags, sang “Shalom Aleichem,” and handed out special gifts. Getting into the festive spirit, the survivors began to dance in glee as they found their seats, a rush of joy filling their souls.
Welcoming all in attendance, Luke Gasiorowski, Director of Helping Hand Coalition, began the event by thanking everyone who had come to celebrate the Festival of Lights. Andre Gasiorowski, Chairman of Helping Hand Coalition, also spoke, sharing his gratitude for Pastor George and the work he has done with survivors of the Holocaust over the last decade.
“Your heart is here in Israel with us. Thank you for building bridges between Asia and Israel, between East and West. Thank you again for being with us, with all your wonderful people from the East, and for showing God’s love to the people of the Holocaust.” ~ Andre Gasiorowski
Pastor George Annadorai was then invited to the front, where he shared an inspiring speech of hope and promise. After feeling prompted to do more for the survivors in Israel, Pastor George and his organization, Shalom Israel, continues to grow each year as they come to Israel, bless the people, and serve the survivors of the Holocaust. Pastor George Annadorai told the audience that the three reasons he is passionate about this work and organizing the annual Hanukkah event with Helping Hand Coalition are to remember, to keep his promise of walking with the survivors until the end, and to reinforce all existing activities.
Pastor George Annadorai exclaimed, “I’m glad to have this opportunity to make a wrong right. I wasn’t there when the Holocaust happened, I was born long after 1945; but, here we are in the 21st century, and I’ve learned how people who call themselves Christians have done you terrible damage. So, my mission in life is that we were part of the problem in the 20th century, and now we want to be part of the solution in the 21st century!”
A round of applause erupted at the end of Pastor George’s speech before a hush filled the room as a German family came to the stage and bowed before the survivors. Pastor Thomas Greiner, from Friedenskirche Church, and three generations of his family, had traveled to Israel specifically for this event. Tears were shed, and emotions ran high as Pastor Thomas proclaimed, “We want to assure you that as Germans we do not want to forget what our people did to you. We stand with you, are in prayer with you, and in support of you and the country of Israel. We ask you for forgiveness and bow before you. Joy is coming, and for us, it is a great honor to celebrate this day with you, together!”
Boris Burle and Roman Barmanik from the Association of Concentration Camps and Ghetto Survivors shared their thanks for being acknowledged and blessed through the day’s event. They said, “Thank you for remembering what happened to us. You all respect us, bless us, and give us your love. We are very thankful.”
The two men presented gifts to Pastor George Annadorai and his wife, Mano, before returning to their seats. The Annadorai’s also gave a plaque to Andre and Bozena Gasiorowski, thanking them for the past ten years of hard work and connection.
Before a flavorsome lunch was served, Vadim Spector from Projects for Aliyah Department from the Tiberias municipality, blessed the event and told the crowd, “I’m happy to see all the organizations that have hosted this event, Shalom Israel and Helping Hand Coalition. We wish to all who went through the Holocaust and all the friends who are here, strong health and shalom in the heavens.”
Soon after lunch had been served, Shaul and Yulia Ben Har from Shamayim took to the stage to give an incredible performance. Awakening everyone’s dancing feet, the music set the tone for the survivors to waltz, jive, and tango. It was touching to see the women dance together, as they did at the end of the war, and watch the couples embrace one another, dancing like no one else was in the room.
Seeing the survivors connect with the guests was also a fantastic sight! They laughed and danced together, broke bread during the meal, and were equally touched at being invited to such a beautiful and decorative reception. Nobody wanted to go home, and the survivors didn’t stop dancing until they got onto their bus!
Helping Hand Coalition is forever grateful for our partnership with Shalom Israel. It was an honor to host survivors from all over Israel (Haifa, Netanya, Nof Hagalil, Carmiel, Hadera, Holon, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Yam, and Tiberias) and guests from around the world (Singapore, Germany, America, Australia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and India), and celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah together. Thank you to all the speakers who spoke with great passion and inspiration, and everyone from Shalom Israel and Helping Hand Coalition for organizing such an incredible afternoon!
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