Israel is currently passing through deep waters and is being literally attacked with fire, as rockets rain down on her relentlessly day after day from Hizbullah forces in Lebanon. Since 1948, Israel has fought eight wars against hostile neighbors who want nothing less than her total annihilation. Now, Israel is forced to fight another war for her existence and the lives of her citizens. The north of Israel is in siege mode, as it has been blanketed by Hizbullah’s missile attacks. Sirens blare in their up and down, undulating pattern, striking terror in hearts of men, women, and children.
Since Hizbullah first attacked, killing eight soldiers and kidnapping two, the country has been in crisis. First the standing army was mobilized, an army of mostly 18 to 21-year-olds. Then additional reserve units are being called up, composed mostly of men in the 21 to 40-year bracket. Mothers and fathers are sleeping lightly, if at all, listening for the call they hope never comes. Everyone is paying close attention to news reports, not just the evening news, but every hour on the radio, reading papers, checking the Internet, and leaving the televisions turned to news channels.
Seventeen percent of the Israeli population live in the affected area. That is over one million people who are living in torture, never knowing where the next missile will land. Over 500,000 people are living in shelters, and at least 300,000 have fled to safer parts of Israel. I talked with one young Jerusalem resident who expressed how tired he was. He told me that his family had taken in so many Israeli refugees from the north that they were taking turns sleeping on the floor, as there simply weren’t enough beds to go around. Hotels in the “safer” areas are full of Israelis, who are spending their savings to provide safety for their families. But, their funds are running out. Hotels in Israel are expensive. Rafi Ben Hur, a deputy director at the Ministry of Tourism, told our group of Christian leaders that they cannot continue to stay in hotels much longer. “I have a good job with the government. I make a good living. And I could not afford to keep my family in a hotel for more than two weeks,” he said.
About 25% of the population of Israel lives in poverty. An equal number live on the edge, providing for their families and paying their bills, but having nothing laid aside for an emergency. The 500,000 people living in shelters fall into these two categories. They simply don’t have the resources to run to a safer place, and they don’t have family or friends in safer regions that can help them. What does a poor family do? They cannot work because their place of employment is closed down. Since they aren’t working, they aren’t paid. How do they feed their family? And what about entire families living in a single hotel room? They cannot afford to eat out every meal, but what do they do when their funds run out?
Inundated with Requests
Bridges for Peace has been inundated with requests to assist the needy. Three of the towns we have adopted in our Adopt an Israeli Town project and five other regular delivery stops are in the areas of attack. Bill Stevens, our Israel Operations Director, just returned from a delivery run to the north. He describes Tiberias, Kiryat Shemona, and Metulla—normally thriving cities—as ghost towns. There are virtually no cars on the road except for military vehicles. The population is sitting underground in bomb shelters. The Tiberias boardwalk on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, normally bustling with visitors in August, is now empty. The stores and factories are all closed. The crops lie rotting in the fields as no one can harvest them.
Soup kitchens that we work with in the Jerusalem area have reported a sharp increase in requests for assistance because of the refugees. Bridges for Peace has stepped up to meet this need, increasing the food disbursements to these organizations. We have also helped Orthodox volunteers who are going onto the battlefields and removing the bodies of those cut down in battle. These are conscientious objectors who do not want to bear arms but still want to help their nation. While the armed forces are protected, these non-combatants were completely vulnerable. So, we purchased 30 bulletproof vests and helmets for them.
We have also reached out with a hand of love to mourning families, giving them shivabaskets. In Jewish culture, when a loved one dies, the family gathers and sits for seven days of mourning and remembering. This is called “sitting shiva.” It is customary for friends to bring food, so our shiva baskets—full of food items—meet a special need.
All We Need Is More Funds
I asked Bill Stevens how much money he needed for these efforts. He told me that he could easily spend US $500,000. We don’t have that kind of resources available. But, God does. So, I am coming to you, lovers of God and Israel, and unashamedly asking you to dig deep into your pockets to help the Jewish people come “through the water and the fire.”
We have 70 staff members in Israel from over 15 countries. Not one has left to go home, even though some family members have asked them to leave. We understand that our witness of Christian love is shouting to Israelis, who see us stay and stand with them in a dangerous time. Every day we meet Israelis who are amazed that we have chosen to stay.
We have been sent to Israel, “for such a time as this.” We are here, ready to meet the needs. We have the staff. We have the infrastructure in place. All we need is more funds. Please prayerfully consider making a donation to our Victims of War fund. We need you to stand with us and Israel. Together we can impact a generation of Israelis. This is the hour. Please pray with us for a miracle outpouring of finances. Also pray that God will continue to give our staff courage and peace of mind. Thank you for your faithful support of Bridges for Peace and love for Israel.
With a heavy heart, from Jerusalem,
With A Heavy Heart,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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