December 19, 2013
In the past week, at least four people in Israel are known to have died from the frigid temperatures and unprecedented snow. Thousands of elderly went for days without electricity or heat, and at this very moment are on the cusp between life and death. With hundreds of cases of hypothermia, pneumonia, and sickness due to the cold weather, we are facing an emergency situation here in the Holy Land and desperately need help now.
When I saw the news about what was happening in Jerusalem last weekend, it felt like a story straight out of the Bible. Sheets of snow covered the holy city, blocking its steep, hilly entrances. Mothers, children, and elderly people were stranded in the middle of snowed-in highways, and IDF units were sent to rescue them in the middle of the night. Tens of thousands of homes were without electricity for days as the snow and ice storm kept raging. All roads leading to and from Jerusalem were closed off. Neither the government nor the people were prepared for this disaster, so God’s special city – Jerusalem – and her people were left completely dependent on His grace.
While the snow was still falling, Fellowship staff members in Jerusalem were alerted to hundreds of sick elderly facing life-threatening conditions with nowhere to turn for help. We received desperate pleas from needy Holocaust survivors who were bearing the storm without blankets or heat. So The Fellowship immediately went into action, implementing emergency aid distribution.
Before the Jerusalem municipality put together any sort of aid packages, and less than 24 hours after we received the first cry for help, The Fellowship had dozens of volunteers and workers on the ground. They walked through the snow and over ice-covered streets distributing heaters, blankets, and prepared meals to elderly on behalf of Christians around the world. I joined the volunteers in delivering Fellowship aid and was astonished at what I witnessed.
I trekked to the house of a sick man named Chaim, a 75-year-old Holocaust survivor who went days without electricity. The streets were not plowed for nearly a mile outside of Chaim’s house, leaving them impassable by car; the only way to get there was by foot. I walked for over 20 minutes in knee-high snow until I reached his home, only to find the entrance completely blocked by a fallen tree.
Unwilling to leave Chaim abandoned and alone, I clung to the food package and blankets and carefully climbed over the fallen tree. Finally, I made it to Chaim’s small apartment and let myself in, only to find Chaim asleep on the couch with a warm water bottle under his head – his only source of heat. The air was so cold I could see my breath and when I opened his fridge to put away the food, I found it empty. I draped the blanket around Chaim, left him a note and material on The Fellowship, and left to help the next elderly person in need.
The Fellowship’s emergency operation was so critical, effective, and timely that the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and Israeli President Shimon Peres made their only public visit during the massive storm to a Fellowship distribution center. “The Fellowship always seems to have a finger on the pulse of the Israeli people and knows how to respond to their most basic needs,” said Mayor Barkat when he witnessed our organized operation.
Simply put, during this horrendous storm Christians around the world saved hundreds of lives by providing people with basic needs when no one else in Jerusalem was able to. Thank God, this storm has passed, yet the desperate need for winter heating aid for Israel’s elderly remains. We have another three months of winter to endure, and for many aging Israelis living in homes with cracked windows and no heat, that means another three months of struggling to survive while fighting off frostbite, hypothermia, and sickness.
The Fellowship is ready and waiting to bring these needy elderly their lifesaving aid, yet we need your help to do so. Pray, my friends, and think of Chaim – the poor Holocaust survivor without heat or food – next time you turn on your heat and pull up your blankets at night.
With blessings from the Holy Land,