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Portrait of Ilana, paintet by a volunteer

Ilana Hirchenson

1930 - 2020

Born in a Small Village in Transylvania

Ilana was born in 1930 in a small village near Sibiu in Transylvania at the foot of the beautiful Carpathian Mountains in Romania. She was the youngest of seven children, two girls, and five boys. Her family belonged to the Romanian Orthodox Church and attended services regularly. In spite of this, Ilana felt that she did not have a personal relationship with God.

After finishing high school in her village, Ilana studied and graduated from a horticultural college. When she was in her late twenties, she met Sammy at a common friend's party. He was Jewish and some business matters had brought him to Sibiu from Bucharest. They dated at a distance for a while and then Sammy moved to Sibiu, where they were married.

Although both were Romanian and shared a similar culture, their life together was not easy. Their backgrounds were different; she was a Christian ad he was Jewish. Ilana's family thought that Jewish people were strange. Despite this, they were charmed by Sammy's friendliness, welcomed him, and enjoyed having him at family gatherings. Sammy's family was not so kind to Ilana. His sisters married Jewish men and frowned at a Gentile woman. No matter how pleasant she was, Ilana received a cold reception in Sammy's family. Family gatherings with his family occurred very rarely due to the fact that they lived in Bucharest. Later, after their mother passed away, Sammy's father and two sisters with their families immigrated to Israel.

Hoping for a Better Life in Israel

Ten years later, in 1972, when their only daughter, Rachel, was twelve, Sammy and Ilana also sought to immigrate to Israel, where they were hoping for a better life. The Communist Party made life difficult in Romania. But now, in retrospect, the real reason for moving to Israel was not only the desire to find a better life, but also to find a real life. In Israel, in the land where Jesus was born, the whole family met Him.

After studying Hebrew in ulpan, Rachel started attending regular school. She needed a Bible in Romanian to keep up with the Bible classes in Hebrew, which were difficult for her. A friend at school told her of a bookstore in Haifa where she could find one. Ilana went with Rachel to the shop where they found Bibles in different languages, including Romanian.

Beit Eliahu Congregation

However, the Bible was not the only thing they found they also met Frida Varon, who worked in the store and was known to many as an evangelist. She was from Romania. She shared the gospel with Ilana and invited her to her congregation, which was attended by many Romanian Jewish believers. Craving some Romanian culture, Ilana was happy to attend Beit Eliahu. That is when she really started reading the Bible and putting her personal trust in Jesus. She told Sammy about her newfound faith. He did not object to it, reasoning that since she was born in a Christian family, it made sense for her to follow Jesus and to attend congregational meetings.

Sammy and Rachel started coming to the congregation as well, but for a long time felt that Jesus was not for them as Jewish people, although they met other Jewish believers.

Ilana continued to pray for them. Through her gentle witness and the grace of the Lord, her prayers were answered. Both Sammy and Rachel came to know the lord personally.

Working and living in the Ebenezer Home

Ilana worked in the Ebenezer Home for over twenty years as a nurse's aide, tending to and gently encouraging the residents. Her knowledge of the Romanian language was especially helpful with the Romanian-speaking residents. Even after retiring, she continued to visit them, hold their hand, encourage them with a word from the scriptures, and take them to hospital visits. Some of these residents wanted only Ilana to take them to their appointments.

In 2002, Ilana herself entered the Ebenezer Home as a resident. Now she receives the same loving care that she used to give to others.

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