Our Jewish speaker spent over an hour explaining the efforts of his team to bridge the gaps between disparate groups living in Israel: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, and Ashkenazi and Sephardi (Jews from European background or from Middle Eastern background). I found his talk fascinating because just like him, Bridges for Peace is working to bring reconciliation. During the question-and-answer time, I asked for his opinion on how we could improve our efforts to build relationships between Christians and Jews. His response was simple, but profound: “You know the right thing to do.”
Yeshua (Jesus) told us that the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). Later, when asked who our neighbor was, He told the story of the Good Samaritan who cared for a needy, wounded man who clearly was not—in the culture of that day—considered to be his neighbor. The conclusion of the story goes like this: “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ and he said; ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36–37).
Today in Israel, we see great needs on every side. The current worldwide recession and rising unemployment in Israel have created a catastrophic situation for charities involved in food programs and those they assist. Avraham Israel, head of the Hazon Yeshaya Humanitarian Network (one of the organizations Bridges for Peace assists), told The Jerusalem Post recently, “This is a worst case scenario, a situation that is usually only seen in a nightmare. The picture is already very bleak, but I believe this is only the start, and it’s going to get much, much worse as the year progresses.” Poverty reports are indicating that there is a 50–60% increase in the numbers of Israelis seeking food assistance. In the aftermath of the sinking stock market and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, Jewish charitable giving has dropped 25% at the very time when the need has greatly increased.
We are so thankful that faithful Christians all over the world have not lowered their giving. In light of the current difficulties, we are reaching out our hands to the hurting “neighbors” around us and have increased the amount of food we distribute each month. In fact, in March, we gave 78 tons (70 metric tons) of food—the most we’ve ever given in one month—to assist over 25,000 people. We have stepped out in faith, trusting the Lord for the funds to pay for the increased food levels. We know that those who love Yeshua will continue to bless the nation of Israel simply because they love Him and know it is the right thing to do.
Caring for the Wounded
“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…To comfort all who mourn…” (Isa. 61:1–2). Recently, two of our volunteers from Japan, Sati Oda and Yoshie Ishimoto, experienced firsthand how our efforts are working to bring reconciliation.
One day, we were shopping for groceries at the shuk (market) in Jerusalem. Mesmerized by an unfamiliar cultural environment, we were drawn into one shop alongside a busy alleyway in the shuk—only to find out that God had an appointment for us.
It was a small and tidy second-hand clothing shop owned by a middle-aged Jewish lady. The store was so small but filled with many quality clothes of American, European, and local brands. A young salesperson welcomed us and asked us where we were from and what we were doing. I responded just as I would normally do—that we were from Japan and volunteering with Bridges for Peace.
“Oh, I know Bridges for Peace!“ she said, with a beaming grin on her face. ”How do you know about us?”
“My mother was being helped by Bridges,” she responded. As we shopped, the owner of the shop entered. When she found out who we were, she began telling her story.
“I was a victim of the terror attacks and received support from Bridges for Peace. People from Japan in Bridges helped me through!“
At this point, Yoshie and I looked at each other with our jaws dropped open. What are the odds that we would run into a Jewish person who received Bridges support from our home country?! She said that she was able to recover from the attack with a help of Bridges, and about six months ago, she moved and opened her shop in the shuk.. The young salesperson who first welcomed us was her daughter. Today, the mother has overcome the terror. She is living a life full of hope together with her daughter.
Joy and thanksgiving for the help she received was evident in her and her daughter’s beautiful and glowing smiles as they stood in their small but vibrant shop. Yoshie and I were overjoyed in this surprise divine appointment God had given us, with a sure assurance that God is indeed using people like us who come from a far country to outpour His love toward His chosen people in Israel.
Despite the fact that Japan is a nation of 130 million people, Christians comprise less than 1% of the population. Since Bridges for Peace was birthed in the country of the Rising Sun where Christianity suffers with minimal growth, many Japanese believers have given their support to the Jewish people. Some of them have actually come to volunteer in Israel, being hands and feet of tangible demonstrations of God’s unconditional love. Yoshie and I are blessed to be counted as two of them this year.
Yeshua told us to love our neighbors. This love is best exhibited when our neighbors are hurting, wounded, and even perhaps left by the side of the road to die. Today, many in Israel are financially devastated, without hope and wondering who will come to their aid. Israel increasingly feels isolated and targeted. The neighbors surrounding the nation are not inclined to assist the Jewish people. But, God has raised up Bible-believing Christians to be the “Good Samaritan” neighbor for the Jewish people of our times. For more than 33 years, the Christian volunteers at Bridges for Peace have dedicated themselves to show God’s love and care to the hurting people of Israel.
Thank you for being part of this ministry to bless the people of Israel with Christian love. As you give, I want you to know that we pray regularly that God will bless you and your family in accordance with Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you [Israel].” We pray that as unemployment increases around the globe, you will continue to be employed and financially blessed. We pray that you will experience the peace of God in the midst of unstable times. Dear friends, may God be with you as you continue to serve Him and His covenant people Israel.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO
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