28 April 2014

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Maria immigrated to Israel just over 10 years ago. Antisemitism was rising in Ukraine and she decided it was time to leave. During World War II, Maria had miraculously escaped from a Concentration Camp but her whole family perished and not one Jewish person was left in her village.   Maria arrived in Israel in 2003 hoping for a better and wonderful future in the Promised Land.

Immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union
"I came here and was very emotional. I left my history behind. I came here to my own people, my own nation. Here I am at home." The reality was very different. Her new life was fraught with poverty and loneliness.  "I hardly know anybody.  It is sad. It is not hard to be alone, but it is sad. As if nobody wants you. Nobody needs you." Like many other Holocaust Survivors who in recent years, came to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Maria has no pension. All the money from the Social Service grants she receives goes on rent. She lives on tea and bread.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Every week, volunteers from Helping Hand Coalition (HHC) prepare a meal for Holocaust Survivors. In more than 50 cities across Israel, these 'Shalom Houses' (formerly known as Warm Homes) provide a place for often lonely Holocaust Survivors, to meet and build friendships. "They love flowers," said Martha, one of the volunteers, as she prepares a long banqueting table with candles and foliage from the garden.
"It is very important for them to gather together and have a wonderful meal," Martha's husband Don explains. "They have come [to Israel] older so it is very difficult for them to learn the language. They feel a little bit lost in the society that they were hoping to be their new home."

Alongside the 'Shalom Houses', HHC visit the Survivors in their homes, and bring food supplies and supermarket vouchers to help relieve some of their financial worries and make their remaining years more bearable. When volunteers visited Maria in her home, bringing fruit and vegetables and fresh flowers for the Sabbath, she was overcome and exclaimed, "God has sent you to me."

Maria wanted to show her visitors some photos of her family and explained that none of them survived. In 1941, all the Jews in the Ukrainian villages where Maria lived, were arrested. The men were shot and left to die in mass graves. The women and children were sent to camps. Maria and her sister Bertha found themselves in a labour camp. "Mother was taken, pushed into a wagon and transported. Where? Nobody knew. I never saw her again. I cannot tell everything that happened. It hurts too much." During the winter, life in the camps was so unbearable Maria decided to escape. She seized an opportunity to run through a corn field towards some woodland. Her sister Bertha was too afraid and Maria had to leave her behind. "They fired. They searched for me between the corn. They looked around and I saw them enter the woods. They passed me by. I was here and there they went. I peeked to see where they were going. I was very afraid."

10 April 2014

It All Starts With A Cup Of Coffee

Sharing the Good News of the Gospel is the driving passion of a shop-front outreach ministry in the heart of Tel Aviv's shopping district. Come on in and see for yourself:

"The glass door opens, and you take a step inside. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and ground beans fills the air. A young man with a big smile greets you. You sit on a comfy couch or around a table with friends, and you are handed a warm cup of coffee, completely free of charge. For a moment, you escape the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv. After a few sips a friendly face approaches you and asks about your day. Without pressure or obligation, he joins you to listen, talk or pray with you. You can stay for as long or as short as you like. Whether you are a believer or not, someone is there to meet you where you are. This is Dugit: It all starts with a cup of coffee!

Avi Mizrachi
In 1993, at the urging of the Holy Spirit, Avi & Chaya established Dugit Messianic Outreach Center as a place to reach Israelis with the Gospel and to disciple them to become strong believers; rooted and grounded in the Word of God. Dugit (meaning Small Fishing Boat in Hebrew) invites Israelis to hear the good news of their Messiah over a free cup of coffee and also hosts groups from around the world to minister and do outreach on the streets of Tel Aviv. Dugit exists to be a light for a city in darkness. Many of the regulars who come to Dugit in the daytime usually have nowhere else to go. Often they are without a job or have drug or health-related issues. Here, they’ll find rest and a place free of pressure or judgment. Most importantly, they will find people filled with the love of Yeshua.

Victor's Testimony

Victor* immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union 15 years ago with his mother and brother. From the moment he first came to Dugit he asked deep questions about faith and Judaism as he had spent a few years of his childhood at a Yeshiva (school for future Rabbis). After talking, Moti suggested that they meet on a regular basis to study the scriptures and search for the answers to Victor’s questions. Twice a week, Moti and Victor sat together, discussing, debating, and exploring what the Bible says about the Messiah. After two weeks of intense study, the Lord moved Victor’s heart and he prayed to accept Yeshua as his Messiah and Saviour. Following a meeting with Pastor Avi, Victor was immersed in the Mediterranean Sea. Hallelujah! With a big smile, and a heart full of joy, Victor praises the Lord wherever he goes. He now attends Adonai Roi congregation, and is very thankful to be in a growing fellowship. Today Victor continues to come to Dugit weekly in order to study and strengthen his faith. He often encourages other people and tells them about Yeshua. Recently, another regular at Dugit told Moti, “I want to be like Victor. He used to be sad and now he is happy, reads the Bible, and loves the Lord!”  We pray and believe that Victor will bear great fruit for God!

Dugit LIVE: Music for the Lost Sheep

As the sun sets on the Mediterranean, Dugit’s lights dim, candles are lit and snacks are put on the table. The normal coffee shop outreach turns into Dugit LIVE. Inside, people are enjoying live music that speaks of God’s Love and Freedom. Vocals, violins, pianos, guitars, drums, and even the occasional ukulele join in the symphony of sound. Outside, volunteer artists paint words of Scripture and images of hope for everyone walking by to see. It's a joyous atmosphere with warm conversation flowing loudly over the din of a Tel Aviv evening.

Dov's Testimony

Dov*, an Iranian Jew, is an older man. Throughout his life he has suffered from a variety of medical problems including severe headaches. The first time we asked to pray for him in the name of Yeshua he said, “No!” However, a week later he had warmed to the idea and asked for prayer.

04 April 2014

It started with an invitation...

'Walk With Me' participants walk past the site of a one of the many suicide bombs in Jerusalem
It started with an invitation. A call that came out from Jerusalem. A cry that asked, "come and walk with us." Not to merely support or stand with  ... but an invitation to take on a collective memory of suffering.

The invitation came from wives who had lost their husbands, from fathers who had lost their children, from young people who continue to suffer every day from their injuries, from families who had personally experienced the trauma of terrorism - terrifying personal attacks perpetrated against one human by another.

Springs of Hope, a Jerusalem based organisation that works tirelessly with victims of terror, organised 'Walk With Me', a week where Christians from the nations could come to Jerusalem and meet these brave survivors. Many were from Orthodox Jewish families and had never met Christians before. It was an opportunity to build bridges and demonstrate the love of the Father through kindness and the desire to get to know them and hear their stories - to walk with them.

A small team from Your People My People felt compelled to answer this call. To walk alongside these forgotten ones and for a short but poignant moment, to hold their pain. Where words were too hard to speak, hearts reached out to touch hearts.

Purim Banquet
The week began with a party - this might seem like a strange way to start a week focused on terrorism, but this was no ordinary party. This was a banquet for Purim, the Jewish holiday that celebrates Queen Esther's selfless act to save the Jewish people from annihilation. In joining together with the terror survivors, to dance and feast together, the 'Walk With Me' participants sent a powerful message that they understood and committed to take a stand, just like Esther. The terror survivors, eager to show how much they appreciated the visitors, welcomed each participant with a beautiful hand written greeting and a symbolic key to the city.

The next day we were invited to a Purim lunch at the home of a vivacious Jewish Orthodox lady. The bountiful spread she laid before us and the joy with which she welcomed and served us belied the inner pain she carries every day. Several years ago, her eldest son had been victim to a suicide bombing. The weapon had been packed with hundreds of sharp metal objects, all laced with rat poison. Shrapnel pierced his skull and the poison infected his brain. He was a normal boy studying at the local school, now he is brain damaged, unable to function in normal social ways. He has been in and out of mental institutions and at times, is so aggressive he is a danger to his family.  He lives but he is not the same person, a darkness has engulfed him. It was hard to imagine how much anguish this mother must carry, but on this day, the Feast of Purim, as the 'Walk With Me' participants squeezed into her modest home, the rooms were filled with laughter and hope.

Later, we split up into small groups and made personal visits to other terror survivors. Our group was invited to the home of a women who had been in a terrorist shooting. She showed us her withered right arm, one area of her body that never recovered from the bullet wounds, and explained that even after multiple operations, some shrapnel still remains in her body. A friend of hers also joined us. She had been in a bus bombing and for many, many years she had been afraid to leave her home. Face to face, we were able to listen and express solidarity.  One of the women said our visit was so encouraging to them, "it was like a visit from angels". The flat was on the top floor of a block without a lift. As we descended the steep stairs, we imagined how hard it must have been for this sweet lady to negotiate these stairs during all her years of surgeries.

'Walk With Me' Forum
We met the ladies again the next day at a forum arranged by Springs of Hope. The first speaker, Gabi Meron is a lawyer who confronts international banking systems and corporate businesses in order to demolish the financial network that funds global terrorism. He opened our eyes to the extent to which well respected businesses are involved in the cover up of money trails that lead directly to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other well known terrorist groups involved in terror all around the world.

We also heard from Khalid Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim now living in Jerusalem who used to work as a journalist for Yasser Arafat and the PLO,