Israel 2010 ~ Valarie: A Holocaust Survivor ~ An Artist ~ And My Friend

I wish I could take everyone I know to Israel to meet my friend Valerie. She is 90 years old, a Holocaust Survivor, an artist and she is my friend.  On my website you will see a picture of her and I together a few years ago.  

Valerie’s story is amazing. She married at 24; five days later she was separated from her husband and taken to Auschwitz Birkenau. She escaped; many did not. The memory of the Holocaust became her life’s work through pen and ink drawings. Using the olive tree to identify her people the drawings trace her family’s history.  This is a picture of one that she has displayed in her office. (Sorry for the flashback but it still tells the story.)

Olive Tree Holocaust Story by Valarie

This picture is only one of many that Valerie has drawn. In this picture you will notice one half of the olive tree is alive; the other half is dead.  A few years ago, when I first met Valerie, we stood in her office and looked at this picture on the wall; she told me this is her husband and herself. I still feel the depth of grief in my heart as she told me that story.

It is always quite amazing to me how the Lord interacts in my Israel travels. While I was in Israel I had been contacted that someone wanted to send me a gift and I would know what to do with it. Of course I did, of all the things I still needed or wanted to do before departing Israel, I wanted to visit Valerie. I knew I had to buy one of her watercolor paintings. She paints scenes of Jerusalem and sells them for $100 each. I had been sent word that she was in need of finances for medications and nutritional supplements that are costing hundreds of dollars a month. For someone on a Pensioners salary earning a few dollars from the sale of her artwork helps meet the medicine expenses.

As I sat an looked over her artwork I chose this one.  It is one that she painted on Israel’s 60 Year Independence Day in May 2008. This was perfect as I was in Israel during this season. She had been playing solitaire and moved the cards aside so she could sign it.

After I gave her the US Ben Franklin she scurried off to another room.  I gazed at her precious gift and thought how wonderful it is that many of her watercolors show vibrant colors and flowers; not the  barren olive trees of the Holocaust artwork.

She returned and sat down next to me with jar in her hands. She began to tell me that I helped her that day so she could buy more of the supplements that she takes each day. This one in particular helps with her bones. I wrote down the information so I could acquire some and take back to Israel with me on my next journey so she could save on the shipping from the US.

I left her home in the quiet neighborhood of Rehavia in Jerusalem with only a few hours until I had to be at the airport. I told her that I would see her on my next trip to Israel and instead of being the last thing I do when I arrive, she will be one of the first things that I do.

I am making plans to return to Israel over the next few months. If you want to come with me on my Spring or Fall journey it is possible that you will get to meet Valerie and have the opportunity to own one of her pieces of art. You will also have the opportunity to plant an olive tree in the Negev in honor of Valerie and other Holocaust Survivors. Please go to my website for more information.

To close, I just want you to know that the Olive Tree Holocaust artwork collection is not for sale; it is being kept for a time in the future.


Cynthia Hillson


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