November 22, 2012
Looking into the eyes of the Israeli child in front of me, I saw nothing but fear and trauma. As a 4-year-old boy from Netivot, he has never known life without the regular intrusion of Red Alert sirens. His excursions to the park or to the mall with his mother have always occurred under the shadow of potential incoming rockets. His family has worked hard to make his life as normal as possible, but his eyes tell it all. He is afraid.
Since Operation Pillar of Defense began on November 14, he has spent every day in a shelter at Barzilai Hospital in Asheklon where his mother works. From 8 am to 3pm, he has whiled away the hours with over 100 other children from the hospital in an underground bunker-turned-day-care-center, playing games and singing songs while sirens blasted overhead.
We arrived with 120 teddy bears, gift wrapped by the Bridges for Peace team in Jerusalem, and were warmly welcomed by the volunteers who are caring for the children in the shelter. As we moved from room to room, we watched children drawing pictures, making no-bake chocolate cookies, and others preparing to watch a movie on a screen too small to be seen by most of them. They were orderly, well-behaved…and apprehensive.
In each room, we were introduced and our purpose was stated. We were there to give them a gift—a soft teddy bear from Christians around the world who wanted them to know they were loved and not forgotten. They applauded, shouted, laughed, each one scrambling to get a bear. And for just a moment, delight replaced the fear in their eyes.
Even a teenage boy, there as a volunteer to help with the younger children, asked for a bear. And when I placed it in his hands, he thanked me with a hug and held the bear close to his heart. Much later when I saw him again, he was still clutching it as though it somehow brought comfort and a sense of safety.
Even though a ceasefire is now in place, communities in the South are proceeding with great caution. Schools remain closed and children are in shelters until there is some certainty that the shelling will actually stop. Bridges for Peace is currently preparing hundreds of activity packs with coloring books and crayons to deliver as is necessary, as well as blankets for shelters that are often uncomfortable and unheated. As each item is placed in the hands of a beleaguered Israeli parent or frightened child, the message of Christian love and support echoes, perhaps even louder than the all-too-familiar Red Alert sirens.
From Friday, November 16, 2012
For Israelis, war has again become reality. Israel is now embroiled in a rapidly expanding conflict with Hamas through Operation Pillar of Defense. Nearly 500 rockets have been launched from Gaza since Wednesday night [November 14], several of them reaching Tel Aviv. Three Israelis, one of them a pregnant mother, have lost their lives and those that were already living in poverty are now living in desperation. Dozens have been injured. The residents of communities close to the Gaza Strip, cities and towns that are served by Bridges for Peace, are under lockdown, confined to their homes or their bomb shelters, facing conditions of all-out war. Schools and businesses are closed and sirens are sounding every few minutes.In Jerusalem, the streets are eerily empty. The usual pre-Shabbat traffic that clogs intersections and fills the streets with the sound of honking horns is virtually non-existent. The air is heavy with tension as reserves are called up and families watch their loved ones go off to fight for Israel yet again.
As I write this, the sirens in Jerusalem have just gone off. Those of us here at Bridges for Peace headquarters ran for our bomb shelter, and as we closed the door, we heard and felt the explosion. Reports are that the rocket fell in the north of Jerusalem and there are no reports of injuries or damage. We have heard the all clear, and made our way back to our desks, shaken but secure under the wings of the One who is Israel’s shield and defender.
The leader of Hamas has proclaimed that, by defending themselves against a constant barrage of rockets, Israel has “opened the gates of hell.” To prove his point, the air over southern Israel teems with the sight and sound of rocket fire, and many of Israel’s children will spend another night, perhaps many nights, huddled in shelters, fearing for their lives.
Join with us to show your love and concern to the people of Israel in this extremely volatile, stressful and dangerous time. Our teams are answering many calls for assistance, delivering food baskets to bereaved families and reaching out with love to the people under rocket fire. You can show that Christians care. Send your gift today to the Victims of War fund. Our Christian volunteers in Israel will be your hands and feet to deliver much needed assistance in this critical time. Nothing communicates our love more than being with the people in times like this. “’Comfort yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” (Isa. 40:1)
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