A Big City on the Gaza Border

The Fellowship  |  June 3, 2021

IDF officers standing outside of Ashkelon building damaged by missile fire
IDF officers standing outside of building damaged by missile, women sitting on sidewalk

Ashkelon, Israel.

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas – one that lasted from May 10-21, 2021, the most intense outbreak of violence since Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Gaza war – saw 12 Israelis killed and nearly 2,500 injured as Hamas terrorists launched more than 4,300 rockets into Israel.

Nearly a quarter of these rockets – more than 930 of the missiles launched from Gaza – landed on the city of Ashkelon. And among those killed were two Ashkelon residents, one of them an elderly woman in her 80s.

A Big City on the Gaza Border

A city of 144,000 people, Ashkelon lies less than 10 miles from Israel’s border with Gaza. It lies so close to Gaza, in fact, that residents have only 30 seconds to reach a bomb shelter when the red alert sirens sound – and during the latest conflict, the sirens sounded nearly nonstop.

But that is assuming that residents of Ashkelon even have access to bomb shelters. According to Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam, a quarter of those in the city don’t have shelters. Many years ago, smaller towns like Sderot even closer to the border received shelters, as most of the rockets fell on them. But now, terrorists have devised more advanced weapons to target larger towns just a short distance away. As Mayor Glam tells us, “It’s now clear, [the terrorists] are firing at Ashkelon because it is the most heavily populated closest city.”

Fellowship bomb shelters being placed in Israel

But thanks to the support of friends like you, The Fellowship has been fortifying the city of Ashkelon for many years. Since 2008, we have placed 345 bomb shelters in the city. The Fellowship has also given $1.8 million in aid to the city’s Barzilai Medical Center, including a protected maternity unit. This year alone, we have placed 13 bomb shelters in Ashkelon, distributed security equipment to the city’s security teams, and are currently fortifying the city’s trauma center. The Fellowship is committed to protecting God’s children and His Holy Land from those who seek to undo His promises.

A Holy Inheritance

In fact, God specifically included the city of Ashkelon  in many of His promises we read about in the Bible. Joshua 13:3 names Ashkelon as one of the five Philistine cities given to the Israelites as a holy inheritance.

Unfortunately, God’s people didn’t succeed in inhabiting all of the land He had promised them. The Philistines proved to be a real thorn in Israel’s side for centuries—especially if you remember the stories of King David! During the reign of King Josiah, much later in Israel’s biblical story, Zephaniah prophesied against the Philistines:

“That land will belong to the remnant of the people of Judah; there they will find pasture. In the evening they will lie down in the houses of Ashkelon. The LORD their God will care for them; He will restore their fortunes” (Zephaniah 2:7).

Skyline and coastline of Ashkelon

Zephaniah’s prophecy was fulfilled just recently – in 1948 – when the Jewish people once again called the Promised Land their home: the modern state of Israel. And for the first time since God promised the land to Abraham, the Jewish people again inhabited the city of Ashkelon – a thriving metropolis now one of the largest in Israel. The story of Ashkelon is a remarkable one of God’s promise and providence, a story that show neither the Philistines’ spears nor Hamas’ rockets can stand in the way of our mighty God.

While we pray that the ceasefire continues to hold in Israel, our holy work does not stop. The pain and trauma of Israel’s most vulnerable continue in cities like Ashkelon, as do their basic needs. Your gift today can help provide these basic needs like food and medicine for vulnerable Jews and displaced Israelis with nowhere else to turn.