Only five weeks ago I left my home in Arizona, and with it my eight brothers and sisters, to come to ADI Negev. At the time I thought I was leaving my family behind, however I quickly learned I had in fact traveled to Israel to meet my 21 new brothers in House Ofek.
From my first moments at Ofek I have been welcomed, not as a volunteer, but as family. The moment I walked through the door I was met by Amnon who wanted to go for a walk to the water fountain. I grabbed his hand and off we went as new siblings. Spending time one-on-one with the residents in Ofek you learn each man’s personality, likes and dislikes, and most importantly- what makes them smile.
A smile from a brother at Ofek is the excellent purpose of each staff member and volunteer. Every morning for the past month I have been greeted by Chaim with the biggest smile and many happy vocalizations. Though Chaim is unable to walk or speak he is not hindered for a second in his joyful hospitality to every new family member who enters house Ofek.
I have been welcomed, not as a volunteer, but as family.
Chaim is only the greeter. As I came into the home and spent time with each resident I learned their individual expressions of love and happiness. Nadav scoots towards you on the couch for his morning cuddles, Ben will grab you by the arms ask your name everyday until he can pronounce it perfectly, and Emmanuel may hand you his much coveted soccer ball-the highest of honors.
In each interaction I have learned the meaning of genuine and deep brotherly love from all the men at Ofek. Each resident has a unique ability to to be vulnerable and completely authentic in the most life-giving way. When first at ADI I thought these men needed me but I have quickly realized I needed their love, their wisdom, and their example.
Being loved by my brothers is knowing the holy love of Hashem. I may be traveling back home this week but I will forever bring by 21 new brothers in my heart.