Eighty-seven-year-old Golda Levi apologizes, “Don’t take my picture, dear. I have not had my hair done yet. I’ve had no time, there is always so much to do here!”
Five years ago, Golda’s husband of 66 years, passed away leaving her bereft. “My Haim was such a good man. He was my prince and I was always his princess,” she said. “I did not know how to pay a bill, how to call an electrician, nothing! Why would I? Haim took care of everything.”
Golda’s children and grandchildren live in Canada. When their father died, they pleaded with Golda to come and live there but she refused. “Israel is my home; all my memories are here, in Tel Aviv. Why would I go and live in a foreign country?”
For the first year after Haim's death, Golda insisted on living in her own home. She refused to even think of living in a facility for old people, but as so many of her friends had passed away, and with a growing feeling of isolation, Golda became depressed and lonely. She depended heavily on neighbours who lived in the same apartment block but they all worked long hours, although they did try to check up on her every day.
When Golda’s son visited from Canada, he was disturbed to see that his once always-immaculate mother had neglected herself and took the matter into his own hands, by taking her to view various retirement homes.
Then they came to the WIZO Beit Horim in the heart of Tel Aviv.
“The moment I walked in, I knew that I could be happy here. You could just sense the warmth and feeling of ‘home’. Everywhere I looked there were people of my own age sitting, some reading, some engaged in chat – and some playing cards, which I love to do. Oh, how I missed a good game of cards!”
In Golda’s well-appointed, cozy room, framed pictures of her and Haim, the children, and grandchildren adorn almost every inch of the walls. On her dressing table, and on the windowsill she keeps her collection of dolls in their national costumes from all around the world, that Haim bought for her when they went on their many cruises.
On Shabbat and the High Holy Days, Golda prays in the synagogue at Beit Horim. She points to a plaque honouring the parents of Raya Jaglom z’l and says, “Oh what a woman, what a star. We used to go to the same hairdressers. I was always in awe of her.”
Golda enjoys movies and lectures on a whole host of subjects, and she takes advantage of the manicures, pedicures, and hairdressers. She even tried reflexology and loves her yoga sessions. She is popular, is often to be found going down memory lane, and talks incessantly about her Prince Haim and her seven grandchildren, her ‘angels’ - who come to visit in the summer months.
“Do you know what it is like to have a reason to get up in the mornings? Because I do. WIZO Beit Horim has given me a new lease on life. My biggest decision is what to wear, just as it always was. Everything else is taken care of. I do believe that Haim would have loved it here, too. I know he rests well, knowing that his princess is being looked after so well.”
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)