In Israel, according to a report released in December of 2014, 35.1% of children live in poverty, while 25% go to bed hungry at night. That means nearly a million Israeli children face a very uncertain future, struggle to keep up with their classmates, perhaps are even forced to drop out of school and work to help their families survive. Many of these children are immigrants who have come to Israel with little, other than their families and the dream of a better life. Often coming from countries where they have faced the horrors of anti-Semitism, parents have made aliyah (immigration to Israel), hoping to see their children have the happy and successful childhood that they themselves never had, reaching adulthood with the skills, education and confidence to be successful and contributing citizens of the Land of Israel. Many find, however, that life in their new homeland can be very difficult, making that dream unattainable.
With our Feed a Child program, Bridges for Peace is making a difference in the lives of children like these. Through their generous donations, Christians are bringing hope and happiness to children who might otherwise remain mired in a cycle of poverty and deprived of the opportunity to reach their full, God-given potential. Although it can be difficult to really imagine the profound impact this program has on young lives, the following letter from the principal of one of the schools where our Feed a Child program is in operation gives us a glimpse:
Dear Friends: Thank you for supporting the Bridges for Peace Feed a Child program in our secondary school in Jerusalem. The generosity of Christians like you has a profound, immediate and lasting impact on our students and their families. Because of your commitment, 50 students in grades 7–11 receive a hot, nutritious lunch every day. Your support also covers the cost of their schoolbooks, day and overnight trips, after-school enrichment programs and even a beautiful basket filled with treats to remember them on their birthday.
For these young women who come from homes struggling under the weight of poverty, Feed a Child means that they can just be regular high school kids. During these formative teenage years when everyone is struggling so desperately to fit in, Feed a Child means that these students don’t stand out from their peers because they can’t afford to buy books or to attend a special Sabbath retreat. Your kindness gives them dignity, comfort and a sense of belonging.
Devorah, a tenth-grade Ethiopian immigrant, is one of these students. One of three siblings, her parents came to Israel a decade ago in order to build a better life for their children. But like so many Ethiopian immigrants, they’ve had a difficult time integrating into Israeli society. Devorah’s father works as a cleaner and her mother is unemployed. They live in poverty.
In February, our administrator accompanied Devorah to a conference held by the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem on the subject of why many Ethiopian immigrants leave religious educational frameworks to attend non-religious schools. Devorah was asked to share her personal story with those in attendance.
The letter goes on to relate how Devorah was asked many questions about her experience as an immigrant, how it felt to be discriminated against or treated differently because of her ethnic background and her poverty. She responded that the questions made no sense to her because she was treated the same as everyone else in her school. She was never excluded or looked down upon, and her teachers had the same expectations of her as of the other students. The principal continues:
After she left the room, our administrator explained that Devorah is part of the Bridges for Peace Feed a Child program. So, despite her differences and what so many consider to be strikes against her—the color of her skin, her immigrant status, and the socioeconomic struggles of her family—it doesn’t occur to Devorah that she is somehow different from her peers. She eats lunch alongside her friends. She is part of the same academic framework. She has the same books. And she enjoys the same extracurricular activities.
Feed a Child lets students like Devorah be themselves. It affords her the luxury of a school experience that stresses how she is “the same.” She, too, will go on to serve in the Israeli Army. She, too, will go on to university. She, too, will go on to contribute to a strong and democratic State of Israel.
Children like Devorah who participate in our Feed a Child program will grow up knowing that Christians helped to make their successes possible; Christians cared about them; Christians gave them hope, dignity and a chance at life. But there is so much more that we could do, so many children still struggling in the throes of poverty, in desperate need of our help. Please consider sponsoring a child, or perhaps sponsoring several children together with your church or Bible study. Even a one-time gift will make a difference. Every donation is an investment in the life of a child and in the future of Israel. There can be no greater blessing than that.
Blessings from Israel,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
Photo Credit: Daniel Kirchhevel/bridgesforpeace.com
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