Don’t Give Up Loving Them

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“You may be young, but you have a tremendous responsibility towards the elderly in your family and in the Israeli nation,” Motti Zelikovitch, 55, told students at his alma mater of Boys Town Jerusalem. Zelikovitch, who serves as the director-general of the award-winning Israeli “Melabev”day-care centers for elderly Alzheimer’s sufferers, returned to Boys Town recently to give the youthful students insights on what he terms the “world epidemic” of Alzheimer’s.

“This may seem far from your world, but the 130,000 Israelis who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s could well include your own close relatives. And if so, you need to give them as much love, understanding and patience as you can muster. Regardless of their cognitive limitations, their souls are still very much alive.”

This zealous fighter for the rights of the frail elderly has made hard-fought strides in many other realms of Israeli society. Jerusalem-born Zelikovitch, the only child of Holocaust survivors, is a 1976 graduate of Boys Town Jerusalem’s College of Applied Engineering. In the Israeli Air Force, he was trained as a quality-control officer for the CH-53 assault helicopters, and his first job in civilian life was in developing anti-terror devices for the Israel Police. Following his marriage, he and his wife became the idealistic founders of the community of Kochav HaShachar, 18 miles north of Jerusalem , which now numbers over 2000 residents (including Zelikovitch, his wife, their children and grandchildren). He later served as the chief security officer for the Benjamin Region, the head of the Kochav HaShachar community, and eventually became appointed the Assistant to the Israeli Minister of Defense.

“I’ve always looked for challenges,” he told the Boys Town students. His appointment as head of the world-renowned Melabev organization positioned him at the forefront of innovative developments to aid the cognitive function of the elderly—and of a fierce struggle to convince the Israeli government and general public of the desperate need to fund care for Alzheimer’s victims and their families.

“Much of my inspiration in life came from the late Rabbi Alexander Linchner, the founder of Boys Town Jerusalem,” Zelikovitch noted. “He taught us to believe in ourselves and never to take no for an answer when tackling a challenge. He cared intensely for every student, and even came to visit us on our Army bases after we’d graduated. This kind of love inspired greatness for countless students.”

Explaining the ramifications of Alzheimer’s disease to the young Boys Town students, Zelikovitch cautioned, “Even if your grandparents no longer recognize you, don’t give uploving them. Love is what keeps them alive. We owe our elderly a great deal, and they deserve our respect and appreciation—till their last day on earth.”

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