A Grandmother’s Wisdom During Wartime

By: Maxine Carlill, Homecare Nurse

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.’" (Zechariah 8:4–5)

The above prophetic word, written 500 years before the Jesus walked the earth, is being fulfilled in our days.

Tanya—a grandmother among those of a “ripe old age”—is one who sits in the streets of Jerusalem. Recently, she left her modest apartment in the Old City and sat with Corrie van Maanen of ICEJ Homecare near the restored Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. She was eager to share her thoughts and wisdom, especially about the current tensions of war.

“War is scary, wherever it is, but still, there is a sense of calm in Israel,” she said. “I do not know where it comes from. Even though there is a lot of anxiety and questions on when the war will end, there is still a sense of security. … I feel the Almighty protects us. I feel protected.

“The first days after October 7, I was very afraid, even to go outside,” explained Tanya. “I just listened constantly to the news. And then, slowly, I started to go outside. I took a chair and sat near the entrance … and started to get used to everything.”

Tanya never studied Hebrew when she made Aliyah years ago, since she had to care for her sick, elderly parents. Then, her husband grew sick and later died. Thus, Tanya feels torn between the place where she was born in Ukraine and where she has now lives. Her heart goes out to many friends suffering in the Ukraine war, as she follows the war through Russian language channels. But her heart is also pulled toward what’s happening in Israel: “I feel heavy when I hear the bad news of young Israeli soldiers dying. It makes you want to cry,” she told Corrie.

Tanya is no stranger to war. Her father fought in the Second World War and miraculously survived a burning tank three times. She was born in the difficult days of Stalin’s rule.

As she recounted her life story, Tanya suddenly turned to Corrie and exclaimed: “Do you remember how we met you from the ICEJ? My mother really needed help, and I was given your phone number, and we called you. We were always glad to have your help and friendship.”

Tanya continued, “First of all, we appreciate your good attitude. You always brought us very good, pure-hearted people. I told my grandchildren about Christians and their good deeds. I remember when my husband was in the hospital, and you visited him there, Corrie. You also took care of him, something I remember when I am sad, because it makes me feel warm at heart. Good memories like these leave a trace. We need to forget the evil and remember only the good. The more you remember the good, the more it comes to you.”

Tanya also was impressed that Jews and Christians recently came together to stand up for Israel in the genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

“I believe there is a God and that He wants us all to live in love and peace,” she said. “And trials are given to test our relationship to God and to life. He wants us all—believers and unbelievers—to live in harmony. … I see different people come to the Western Wall, black and white, with crosses and without crosses. All raise their hands and ask the Almighty for health and faith. And that’s right!”

As Tanya and Corrie continued to enjoy each other’s company on the bench, the sun disappeared behind clouds, reminding Tanya that life brings times of both sunshine and sorrow.

“We must rejoice even in bad times,” continued Tanya. “That’s what we feel in Israel. When war comes, there’s sorrow for all. But when victory comes, everyone will rejoice, and we will live peacefully as before.

“Joy is when soldiers win, when everyone comes home safe, when the weather is good, when people do good to each other. Any little thing done from the heart brings joy.

“I try to enjoy every little thing. Years ago, it was a hard start, but now it feels good to live here. I still don’t know Hebrew, but people pass by me and say: “Shalom, savta!” (Hello, grandmother!). And I find joy in that, too.”

Help bring comfort and hope to the people of Israel.