The New Normal
This new normal includes mourning for lost family members (159 killed) and caring for the wounded. It includes living in apartments damaged by rocket fire. Many apartments remain un-repaired with blown out windows and varying degrees of shrapnel damage. These families can’t afford to fix their apartments, and the government agencies––chronically overstretched financially––are overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of the needs. Farmers in the north sustained up to NIS 500 million (about US $117 million) in losses over the course of the fighting. One third of Israel’s farmers (4,000) reside in the north. One thousand fruit growers weren’t able to harvest or tend to their crops. Some lost their entire season’s harvest. Two thousand poultry farmers had chickens too scared to produce eggs, and the yield dropped by 50%.
During the war, Bridges for Peace was there, reaching out with Christian love, distributing food and other necessities. Our staff members went into the thick of the embattled area to deliver food and encouragement. During the times of heaviest fighting, when we couldn’t drive our own vehicles into the area, we made arrangements with the army, and the food was delivered via army trucks. We knew that God had us in Israel “for such a time as this.”
After the cease-fire, we organized a fact-finding trip to the north for our Board of Directors and Senior Leaders. We were escorted by an army colonel, who took us to border positions normally closed to visitors. We stood in a small dusty army camp, a forward position of the army, and looked across a small valley at a village in Lebanon. A large multi-story house was clearly visible without the need of binoculars. The Israel Defense Forces officer told us that it is used as a Hizbullah headquarters. In spite of the cease-fire, Hizbullah was moving in quantities of weapons under the watchful eyes of the Israeli army. No one believes the cease-fire is permanent, only a convenient time to rearm for future hostilities.
No Cease-Fire on Poverty
There has been no cease-fire on poverty in Israel. When the cease-fire went into effect, we expected the cries for assistance to cease. But, we continue to be inundated with requests. We shouldn’t be surprised, since the 2005 National Insurance Institute’s report on poverty shows that the northern part of Israel has the highest poverty rate of any area in the country except for Jerusalem. Twenty-nine percent of families and 40% of children in the north live under the poverty line.
During the war, businesses closed, workers lost their salaries, and the self-employed saw a cessation of income. Many small businesses closed, and crops were lost. It is estimated that financial recovery will take upwards of a year, if the ceasefire holds and hostilities do not resume. The worst effected are those who had no reserves and little or no ability to help themselves––the poor.
Our hearts are moved with compassion for their difficult situation. A continuous flow of food has been sent north to meet some of the immediate needs. In the last month, we have approved expenditures of US $100,000 over and above our normal budget, trusting God to bring in the funds to cover emergency expenditures. Let me tell you the ways this money has been utilized.
Needs increased with the September-October biblical feasts. We provided holiday food assistance including: food packages for 300 Ethiopian families in absorption centers in Tzafat; hot meals for Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets or Jewish New Year) for 46 families whose primary meal preparer was injured during the conflict; and food for families hosting soldiers stationed at South Lebanon border locations, enabling them to invite soldiers to holiday meals. Fifty families hosted 250 soldiers.
Bridges for Peace has committed to provide two month’s worth of food for families in communities hard hit by the recent conflict in the north. These include: Kiryat Ata,100 families; Nahariah, 100 families; Shlomi, 120 families; 5 moshavim (collective settlements) on northern border, 100 families; Nesher (close to Haifa), 50 families; 60 families of injured civilians and soldiers throughout northwestern Galilee; Tzafat, 70 families; 16 Christian Arab families living close to Tzafat; Tiberias, 113 families; Kiryat Shemona, 185 families; 66 families of disabled soldiers.
We provided school lunches to 40 needy children. Fuel oil was purchased for 20 elderly families in Moshav Avivim that sits on the border with Lebanon. We purchased 150 blankets to replace those damaged and lost in shelters during the war and 40 heaters for the coming winter months.
We have stretched our arms out in compassion and faith. The 34-day long war significantly impacted the people in the north, many of whom lived on tight budgets before and now find they simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet. When Bridges for Peace delivers the food to these people, they know that Christians love them enough to help provide for their needs.
Be Part of Blessing the Needy
Many of these families and communities will need assistance far longer than two months. We need your help to continue to meet these needs. Please pray and ask God if He wants you to be part of blessing the needy in Israel. We need many to join our Adopt an Israeli Town Program, making a monthly commitment of US $100 (minimum for one-year commitment). If you are not able to make a monthly commitment perhaps, you would make a one-time gift for food. Your gift of any size will make a difference, providing for physical needs, while communicating Christian love and support.
It is God’s plan to meet the needs of the people of Israel. “Sing O Heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have mercy on His afflicted” (Isaiah 49:13). I believe He wants to use believers around the world to show the Jewish people His love and care. “You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favor her, yes, the set time, has come…For the Lord shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory. He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer.” (Psalm 102:13, 16–17).
In His Service, from Jerusalem,
International President and CEO
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