JERUSALEM, Dec. 4 – An elderly Holocaust survivor who came to Israel to escape the civil war in Ukraine fulfilled his lifelong wish to pray at the Western Wall (Kotel), the most holly site to the Jewish world.
Avraham Takotch, 90, was born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and had never before been to the Kotel. He prayed there yesterday (Moday) thanks to The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
“I dreamed about it all my life and I am here,” said a smiling Takotch. “I feel good that I had the opportunity to come and pray at Judaism’s holiest site. This is a place that I’ve always seen on television, and now I’ve finally been here.”
Takotch, who lives in Rishon Lezion, outside Tel Aviv, immigrated to Israel through IFCJ in 2014, along with two daughters and grandchildren, when violence between pro-Russian separatist forces and nationalist Ukrainian soldiers “became too unbearable.”
To celebrate his birthday, his granddaughter reached out to The IFCJ’s assistance hotline and asked for help to bring Takotch to the Wall to fulfill his longtime dream. He rarely travels otherwise, due to his advanced age. IFCJ provided transportation, and arranged for nearby parking and a wheelchair.
Takotch was 14 in 1941 when the Nazis entered his native city and his family fled to a collective farm in the countryside. They fled the farm in 1942 as the Nazis advanced and made it to the city of Kazan in what is now the Republic of Tatarstan. He, his parents, and two brothers were sent to another collective farm, where they worked through the war. They returned to Donetsk, only to experience famine after the war ended. Takotch eventually was drafted into the Soviet Army and learned to drive trucks, which became his career.
IFCJ’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, said IFCJ helps tens of thousands of elderly survivors and others in Israel like Takotch because they deserve nothing less.
“The Fellowship’s emergency call center gets hundreds of requests a day for assistance, and we respond. This call from Avraham was unique, in that it gave us a rare opportunity to fulfill an elderly survivor’s dream of a lifetime.”