As the New Year recently rolled in, I started reminiscing about the special moments that highlighted the year gone by. And as I look back at 2017, I thank God for the incredible experiences I’ve had in my work with The Fellowship, which has allowed me to bear witness to its mission here in Israel.
As part of my job, I visited the homes of Holocaust survivors and other elderly who receive lifesaving aid from The Fellowship. During those interviews, I found myself sitting at the edge of my seat with a notebook and pen in hand, intently listening and recording as they shared their life stories through tears of pain and triumph.
I was overcome with admiration for these elderly survivors, whose willingness to open up old wounds was borne out of their desire to share their past with our Christian donors, whose generosity is ensuring their future. And at night when I close my eyes to fall asleep, I sometimes see their pain-stricken faces as they recalled their stories.
“I nearly lost everyone to the Nazis. They took mother, my father, and three of my siblings; only my sister and I survived,” recalled Yudit, who goes every day to a Fellowship project for seniors, where she spends time in our workshops for the elderly and receives a nutritious hot lunch. “Now that my sister is gone and my husband has passed away, my only family is The Fellowship.”
I saw how our ministry reaches out to the oldest and youngest members of Israeli society. Visiting orphanages and children’s homes The Fellowship funds, I saw too many neglected kids whose parents, for financial, mental, and/or health reasons, can’t take care of them.
As heartbreaking as it is to see a child living apart from his or her family, I thank God for our donors, whose generosity enables The Fellowship to reach out to these kids, to let them know we care for them, and most importantly to ensure that these children don’t fall through the cracks.
When I saw the faces of lone soldiers helped by The Fellowship, and heard firsthand accounts from their commanders about how the support of Christian donors alleviates their worries and helps them focus all the energy on being great soldiers, I realized that our mission is vital to the protection of the Jewish homeland.
Traveling to an army base along Israel’s northern border with Syria, where The Fellowship assists a number of soldiers from extremely poor backgrounds, I had a chance to meet Motti, who is the commanding officer at the base. “Just to give you an idea of how important The Fellowship’s assistance is to our unit, I could tell you about David, one of our finest combat soldiers,” Motti explained. “He comes from a very poor background, is the eldest of three, and his mother raised them by herself.”
Concerned for his mother and two younger siblings, who barely had food to eat at home, David was not able to concentrate his energy on being a soldier, and wanted to quit so he could go back home and help his family. “The Fellowship helped David and his family, ensured that his mother and siblings received life-saving food boxes every month, and with that, David had the peace of mind to focus all his energy on being the warrior that he now is,” Motti explained.
It is true that most of our warriors are in uniform, yet I met many staff members and dedicated volunteers who carry out The Fellowship’s mission to strengthen the Jewish people and the state of Israel – and to me, they too are warriors.
I was especially moved by the staff members in our aliyah (immigration to Israel) department, who travel to places around the world where anti-Semitism is widespread and dangerous, risking their own lives to help Jews escape countries where they are being persecuted.
I saw tears roll down the faces of staff members as they described the poverty they have seen here in Israel. “I can’t sleep some nights knowing that so many kids here, in the modern state of Israel, go to sleep hungry at night,” explained a staff member who works in an after-school program for kids who come from very poor backgrounds and who would be hanging out on the streets picking food from trash bins if not for The Fellowship.
Looking back at 2017, I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this incredible ministry that is building unprecedented bridges between Jews and Christians. Going forward into 2018, I pray to God that The Fellowship will continue to be a beacon of hope for the needy, a symbol of solidarity between Christians and Jews, and a vessel for divine blessings.
-by Amichai Farkas, a Fellowship staff writer in Israel