I recently had the good fortune to travel to Israel with the Bnai Zion Foundation. They have been dedicated to building community in Israel with love for over 110 years! And we know Laughter On Call builds community and connections with laughter so it was a perfect fit.
The guy in the middle in the picture? That’s local funny man Avi Yosef, born and raised near Jerusalem. He volunteered to be my escort and translator. We said hello to the Executive Director and immediately joined a group of four women at a table, drinking coffee, kibbutzing and eating cookies. They were very taken with the tall, gregarious Mr. Yosef. We went around the table saying hello and quickly learned that they were each from different countries. Morocco, Tunisia, Hungary and India.
“This is very Israel,” Avi told me, “a table like this with all these different nationalities.”
Signature Israel for sure, but the cross-section of people from around the world feels even more apparent at the Yuvalim Center. which is the most international daycare organization for seniors I have ever been too. For the record, the word “daycare” doesn’t seem right to describe this unique hub of activity, where hundreds of seniors gather together daily to study languages, sculpture and engage in all kinds of group exercise.
As Avi and I toured the place looking for people to spread a little Laughter On Call action to, we witnessed all of it. First, we opened a door to find a room full of people sitting quietly at a long table studying Hebrew.
“Russians,” Avi said, overhearing them talk, “very serious students.”
A few doors down we came upon a vast white room with very high ceilings. Arms floated in to the air for this “chair exercise” class in a big open space with a dome-shaped ceiling. A woman with long hair piled up was seated in front, waving her arms and dancing facing the ten or so people mirroring her. It might have been the flood of sunlight in the room, but everyone was practically glowing.
The last place we visited was the art room. This wasn’t pipe cleaners and construction paper. There were about ten women working on real sculptures.
I’ve spent a year teaching, performing and visiting senior residences in California. I often leave feeling a little blue, wishing I could do more. I didn’t feel that way leaving the Yuvalim Center. I just wished I could stay longer, and that I spoke seven other languages.
Growing old isn’t for the faint of heart in any country, but this senior oasis in Israel is remarkably lacking in sadness! What a treat to witness firsthand.