“I was in kindergarten, and the time came to go home, but no one came for me. Finally, my teacher took me home with her. Later, my uncle came for me. Instead of taking me home, he took me to the hospital where all my family was gathered around my mother. I asked if we were getting another baby because that’s what happened last time she was in the hospital. That wasn’t the case. Terrorists had shot her and my father as they were shopping. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t see my father. That day my life changed forever.”
Eli (not his real name), a counselor at the Koby Mandell summer camp for children and young people who have lost a family member to terror, was telling us his story. For years, he had been a camper at Camp Koby and, now at age 22, was a counselor helping other children who have had their lives ripped apart by the sudden death of a family member. Eli was severely traumatized by his father’s death and too fearful to attend school.
Imagine our amazement when we found out that he was one of the early recipients of our BFP Victims of War fund. We supplied the young boy with a computer, so he could keep up with his studies at home. To see him now, as an articulate young man with a heart for others, was very moving for us.
We visited Camp Koby on a blazing-hot summer day in northern Israel. Four hundred children and young people who had lost a sibling or parent were gathered together in a fun, safe, and therapeutic environment. Like all summer camps, the children were enjoying fun, laughter, swimming, and friends. But, unlike other camps, all of these children have personally experienced the pain of death, most commonly from terrorism. Some have lost multiple family members in horrific terror attacks. Many suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.
Interspersed with the fun of camp, trained professionals help the children deal with the pain, fear, and anger which fill their lives. The therapists create non-threatening environments using animals and art to help the children express their feelings. For many years, Bridges for Peace has been helping children through this camp.
Through our Victims of War fund, we help many Israelis whose lives have been torn apart by a bomb blast or a knife-wielding terrorist. We have helped burn victims, the handicapped (who are often missing limbs), and many traumatized children. It is astonishing to see how many people in Israel have been personally affected by war and terror.
I wish the problems were all in the past, but sadly, many in Israel live within rocket range of the Gaza Strip. It is common in these southern communities to hear the blare of the emergency siren—its undulating shrill sound piercing the heart and causing the adrenalin to flow. Everyone has mere seconds to run to the nearest bomb shelter. One of these communities is Netivot, a small border community where we support needy families. Now, through the generosity of a South African family, we will be installing a bomb shelter close to one of the schools there.
Driving south on a major Israeli highway recently, I saw many military vehicles moving to a new location, and it reminded me again of the fragile state of Israel’s security. According to Israeli military intelligence, 200,000 missiles are pointed at Israel. Constant threats of war swirl around us from many voices throughout the Middle East. Israelis cannot live with their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Israel must be well-prepared. Regular drills are held to prepare emergency personnel and the general public for drastic situations.
We are also in touch with Magen David Adom (Red Star of David, the Israeli equivalent to the Red Cross). They have asked us to encourage visitors to Israel to consider giving blood. Israel is unable to share blood bank supplies with neighboring countries. Therefore, the need to have adequate supplies for emergencies is critical. So, we just had a blood donor day when our team was able to contribute in this very personal way.
God has placed Bridges for Peace and our Christian team in Israel for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). He has told us to comfort His people (Isa. 40:1). Please join us in reaching out with God’s unfailing love to those who are victims of war.
Your gift will enable us to provide time at a summer camp for grieving children, bomb shelters for at-risk communities, and items for individual needs such as the computer we gave to Eli. Your gift shows that you care. Let us be your hands to touch those in need.
Donors have graciously helped us provide bomb shelters to take care of our BFP team members in case of attack. They are in place and stocked with the necessary supplies. We also have gas masks available for our entire volunteer staff. Of course, we hope we never need these safeguards!
We are also thrilled to have two new vehicles made possible through the generous gifts of Christians around the world.
Blessings from Israel,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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