Everlasting Oil

May 12, 2024

It was the seventh night of Hanukkah – normally one of the most joyous days on the Jewish calendar – when a knock on the door brought news that changed Hadas Lowenstern’s life forever:

Her husband of 13 years, Elisha, the love of her life, had fallen in battle in Gaza.

He was there on a mission to rescue wounded soldiers when he was killed by a Hamas-fired anti-tank missile. He left behind six children.

Not only was Elisha a computer engineer, but he was also an ordained rabbi and Bible scholar – a pillar of their community in Harish.

In Israel, every man at age 18 must serve in the Army. Many women choose to do so as well. While their contemporaries in the US unpack their college dorm rooms, Israelis from all walks of life – religious and secular, rich and poor, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi – begin basic training together. In three years, prospective employees won’t ask where they went to school, their grades, or which fraternities they joined. They’ll ask in which unit they served, how they handled professional responsibility, and how they contributed to the safety of their country.  

For many Israelis, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (the IDF) becomes a long-term obligation as they remain on reserve duty, called up periodically for training with their old fellows from the regular service. For a Westerner, this can be quite an unusual sight. A CEO in civilian life might serve as a regular foot soldier, while a taxi-cab driver (in civilian life) serves as his officer!

However, Elisha, because of his large family, was exempt from joining the army for reserve duty. Nevertheless, after October 7th, Hadas and Elisha knew that Elisha would re-enlist to defend the people of Israel. He had no other choice. Like many Israelis, Elisha believed that Israel’s security was his responsibility – no matter the cost.

Even after tragically losing her husband, Hadas has been determined not to let Hamas win. She does everything in her power to bring joy to her children and make sure they live happy and meaningful lives despite their horrific loss.

The story of Hadas and Elisha is unique, but it isn’t new. And if you think you’ve heard a story about Elisha and a widow before, you’re not wrong. 

Kings II tells us the story of Elisha’s prophetic miracles. Elisha, the prophet of Israel at the time, meets a widow who is left with a significant debt after the death of her late husband. The creditors are on her case and threaten her with the worst kind of threat imaginable: they will take her children as slaves if she cannot repay her debts. And soon. So Elisha asks the widow, “What do you have in your house?”

To which she replies: “Nothing except for a jug of oil.”

Elisha instructs the widow to go out to her neighbors and borrow as many pots and jugs as she can find. Any vessel to hold that oil. Once the widow has collected enough, Elisha tells her to go into her house and begin pouring oil from the original jug. Now if anyone here is familiar with the classic children’s book Strega Nona by Tommy De Paola, you might have the same image in your mind as I have in mine. The widow keeps pouring her oil, and the jugs continue to fill up. Just like the pasta pot! And for the widow, despite the original meager amount, she never runs out of oil. 

Until she ran out of jugs, that is. 

At that moment, Elisha commands her to stop pouring. “Now,” he says, “Take these oil jugs and sell them. The money you make will sustain you and your family for the rest of your lives.”

Thinking about it, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Elisha Lowenstern shares a name with the prophet Elisha. Lowenstern saw his country – bereft and in need – her people taken captive. Her life turned on its head. And with God’s help, he poured forth dedication, commitment, and care – until no more was left to give.

Now, the Lowensterns need our help. Hadas and her six young, vivacious children, aged 10 months to 12 years old, lost their father, and Hadas lost her husband. Elisha was their breadwinner, and now everything has fallen on her. From paying bills to appointments to caring for the home and raising her children alone. Hadas is strong, but she shouldn’t have to fight this alone, either. 


To the extent that we can, let’s take our inspiration from the biblical Elisha and Elisha Lowenstern and help ensure that Hadas receives the love and support she needs to care for her children for as long as she needs. Here’s the link to donate. It’s as simple as a click.

Please consider this a Mother’s Day gift for Hadas—one of the most meaningful gifts you can give. 

During Hanukkah, when Lowenstein was killed, Jews all over the world commemorate another miracle of oil—that a small jar of it lit the Menorah in the ancient temple for a full eight days. A little bit of oil can go a long way, and any amount is significant. 

Hadas said, “Eventually, there’s a good side and a bad side. I really pray people will choose to be on the good side.” 

May we merit to continue fulfilling her prayer.

The Israel365 Charity Fund is dedicated to strengthening and supporting the people of Israel who need our help. Donate to the Israel365 Charity Fund today.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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