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Special Reports

Perfect timing!

As Israel slowly emerges out from its third major corona lockdown and school bells ring once again for classes to re-open this week, the city of Ashkelon’s security chief together with parents and the youth who attend the Ashkelon High School of Advanced Science and Torah Studies can gasp a sigh of relief!

Ashkelon is an Israeli coastal city situated within close range of terrorist rocket fire from Gaza. “On the one hand, this school responded to our commitment to promote excellence in our students. These are tomorrow’s innovators of science and technology. On the other hand, we have a very serious threat from nearby Gaza. We have 30 seconds to get to a shelter. That’s it,” noted local security chief Elan Gozlker.

At the beginning of the school year, the new Ashkelon High School of Advanced Science and Torah Studies desperately needed four bomb shelters to protect their students. School principal Esther Day explained: “The Sciences High School consists of several prefabricated portable rooms that were placed here at the start of the school year. These classrooms did not have any protection from rocket attacks whatsoever, and the parents and students were very worried.”

As the school year began, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was able to help towards this need by providing two portable bomb-shelters, made possible through Christian donor support from Switzerland. However, knowing that these shelters were insufficient to protect all their children, anxious parents placed pressure on the school, as well as the security department, to bring in the two additional shelters.

“We knew our initial gift only partially met the need and the school was in danger of closing down classes if additional shelters weren’t brought in soon,” noted Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for Aid and Aliyah. “However, a few weeks after schools opened in the fall, the second lockdown temporarily closed them again, giving us a bit more time to close the gap. We were so excited when we received two additional generous donor gifts from Switzerland that enabled us to finish the project.”

With these gifts, the ICEJ was able to fulfill the school’s larger need for four bomb-shelters. Despite intermittent lockdowns, work continued with making the bomb-shelters at the factory. Much excitement filled the air as the delivery truck with the additional two shelters arrived to place them in their permanent home two weeks ago, perfectly timed for the re-opening of school!

Watching in anticipation as the shelters were meticulously hoisted from the truck and lowered to the ground, Elan Gozlker, shared his feelings as the one in charge of security for the area schools.

“What these shelters have done is give us security,” he assured. “We are so grateful. Thank you. We love you!”

“Now that we have these shelters, it will help the kids to feel safe and comfortable here,” added the principal, Esti Day. “Thank you so much for your donation. We appreciate it very much.”

“Now the students can study with peace-of-mind, not to mention the teachers, who now know that should the alarm sound during the day, they and their students know where they can find shelter” said Nicole Yoder.

The need for bomb shelters in both southern and northern Israel is immense. The State Comptroller of Israel released a report in August 2020 which revealed alarming statistics that 2.6 million Israelis do not have access to functional bomb shelters. About 30% of Israelis do not have functioning bomb shelters near their homes, including over 250,000 civilians who live near the Gaza and Lebanese borders, areas under the highest threat of rocket attack.

The ICEJ is committed to continuing our aid to bring safety and security to these vulnerable border communities. Through your generous giving, we can continue to bring peace-of-mind to Israelis living under the constant risk of rocket fire. 

Please give at: icej.org/crisis

ICEJ Helping Israeli Youths Reach for the Horizon

What is the ‘horizon’? Could it be a dream that seems so far off in the distance, that no matter how hard one tries it feels unattainable? Or perhaps the life one aspires to live, yet it seems impossible?

For many Israeli youth, they would simply stumble through life if they had not been given the opportunity to join a special enrichment program to help them navigate through life’s toughest stages and reach for the horizon.

The ICEJ has been involved with this unique educational enrichment program, called “Touching the Horizon”, ever since it was launched as a pilot project in a high school in Akko. Seeing its early and obvious success, the program has since been expanded to high schools across Israel. Presently the ICEJ supports the ‘Horizon’ program in three high schools, two in Jerusalem and one in Lod – each with about 25 students participating.

The aim is to help vulnerable youth struggling through life and in danger of dropping out of school, by providing mentors to help them persevere, overcome their personal obstacles, and complete their schooling. These young Israelis have talent and potential, but they lack the opportunities and support essential to succeeding.

Aimed primarily at grades 10 to 12, the youth attend small weekly meetings in a safe environment which includes personal mentoring, help developing leadership and social skills, tutoring in difficult subjects, community service opportunities, confidence-building team activities and several hot meals a week. Teachers and mentors also work with the parents to help these young people grow and develop. And even after graduation, the youth continue receiving support and guidance throughout their army service and one year beyond, until they enter a college study program or find employment.

For *Ayala, who never missed a ‘Horizon’ meeting, the enrichment program had a dramatic impact on her life.

“This program has changed me in the best possible way”, she told us. “In 10th grade, I was angry at the world without any desire to open up and grow, fearful of everything and particularly fearful of change. In general, I hated everyone and most of all myself. Now, in 12th grade, I am happy with life and have a great desire to experience new things. And even more than that, I love to go out and explore new things in new places and to learn as much as I can.”

“In the past, I wasn’t able to control my temper; today I know how to stop myself before it breaks out of control”, Ayala added. “Once I began to learn how to stay calm, my desires began to change, and I was able to deal with my fear of meeting new people or going outside of my comfort zone.”

Another student, *Shai, shared how privileged she felt to be part of the enrichment program and how it helped her gain confidence and open up to others.

“For the first time, I feel enough self-confidence to share my thoughts and feelings with others without fearing what people will say or if they will judge me,” said Shai.

Shai loves to sing, dances in the Jerusalem dance troupe, and often performs at school ceremonies. The extra assistance she received through “Touching the Horizon” has made all the difference. As she said: “I have the confidence to do what I love because this program gave me the tools and helped me believe in myself and my abilities.”

Thank you for supporting this program to help vulnerable Israeli youth chart a new course towards their horizon. Your support helps them reach their full potential on the way to becoming whole and independent adults.

Please continue to give at: on.icej.org/aid 

[*Names changed by request to protect the identities of the students.]
 

Peace-of-mind for Ashkelon girls

Many thoughts run through one’s mind when thinking about Ashkelon. This ancient Mediterranean city is situated in southern Israel. Sadly, Ashkelon is within reach of terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza, and regrettably far too many times finds itself on the receiving end of these barrages.

Moving away from the beach-front, one notices that Ashkelon is home to many lower income families. A lot of these families feel insecure as they do not have a safe-room in their apartment, and when the red-alert siren sounds they need to run to the nearest shelter. Schools operating in the area are required to have bomb shelters for the children, otherwise they are not allowed to operate during heightened tensions. Knowing a shelter is nearby may be the only peace-of-mind that local parents have when sending their children off to school.

The ICEJ recently visited the AMIT Fred Kahane Technological High School in Ashkelon, which has a good reputation for dedicated students and advanced learning. During the 2014 Gaza war with Hamas, this school took a direct hit from a rocket attack, destroying the entrance and several classrooms. Thankfully, none of the children were at school that day, as the attack took place on a Shabbat. However, what happened is engraved in the community’s memory and has left a long-lasting mark on the school.

This national religious school has around 400 students, mostly boys. Recently, however, they started a separate girl’s program, allowing approximately 60 Orthodox girls to study separate from the boys in their own school complex. As the girls’ complex was being remodeled with new bathrooms and paving outside of the classrooms, the ICEJ heard about the urgent need for bomb-shelters on the premises.

Through the generous donations received from Christians in the USA and Switzerland, the ICEJ was able to install two bomb shelters at the new Ulpana religious girls’ complex. At the dedication ceremony for the new bomb shelters, Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, had an opportunity to speak to the director of this new program and several of the girls. Nicole explained that the shelters were a gift from Christians who love and care about Israel, and wished them a blessed year ahead. The ICEJ plaque on the shelters will serve as a continuous reminder of this demonstration of love.

The school director thanked our donors for this incredible gift, adding that they take security very seriously and without such shelters, they would not have been able to open the new program for observant young girls at all. Nicole responded that “although they now have the option to run to the shelter, may it be that they won’t ever need to!” At least knowing that the shelters are there, helps them to relax more and focus on their studies.

Thank you for being involved and partnering with us in protecting the lives of those living under this constant threat of terror rockets. Over recent years, the ICEJ has been able to place more than 110 bomb shelters in vulnerable Israeli communities along the Gaza border, thanks to our generous donors.

Please consider a generous donation to help protect the vulnerable communities in Israel.

Helping new Israeli Immigrant Children Learn from Home

Moving from your home country to Israel is definitely a challenging feat, but can you imagine how daunting this could be for a child during a world pandemic? Eight-year-old Yirus recently made Aliyah from Ethiopia with her parents and five siblings. As she began school, she was instantly faced with the challenges of the language barrier, cultural differences, and the hardships of distance learning from home due to new COVID-19 governmental restrictions.

There are many children like Yirus, who are arriving in Israel at this particularly difficult time. Currently, almost 600 Ethiopian children and another 370 immigrant children from around the world need extra help as they transition into a new - and now online - educational system. “Foundations” an important educational program seeks to support students 8 years old through 12th grade, by providing the necessary tools needed to attend their classes via Zoom, as well as daily physical interactions with a teacher who can help them with technical difficulties, Hebrew, and other subjects.

The majority of the children needing this program are Ethiopian, but it is open to other immigrant children living in Jewish Agency operated aliyah centers as well. Due to COVID-19, children face incredible difficulties in learning at home because their homes are usually quite small, and some immigrant families cannot afford proper technology to connect to their child’s online classes. In addition, their parents are also just learning the Hebrew language and culture themselves, so they are unable to help their child with any questions they may have.

Two immigrant children from Russia, Sergei (13 years old) and Alisa (11 years old) took part in the Foundations program and received extra help with their language studies. This made all the difference for Sergei, who is showing great progress with Hebrew, is making friends, and enjoys his time at school. Since the coronavirus crisis began, the ICEJ donated games, Hebrew textbooks, school supplies, books, and a tablet to Sergei and Alisa.

Danielle Mor of the Jewish Agency told Nicole Yoder, ICEJ VP for Aid & Aliyah, how grateful they are for the ICEJ’s support of the Foundations program.

“This enabled us to provide such a response in this time of need”, said Mor. “On behalf of Yirus, Sergui, Alisa and the many other families and children who benefit from the ‘Foundations’ program, the Jewish Agency sincerely thanks the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Thanks to your support, these children will be supported and aided in their virtual school studies by trained professional staff.”

The generous giving of our Christian friends around the world has made this essential educational support possible and we are deeply grateful. Nevertheless, many additional immigrant and disadvantaged native Israeli children around the country need our help. A gift of $600 will help us purchase a computer or contribute educational support for a child. Join us to ensure a smooth transition and lay a foundation towards a bright future.

Make a difference in a child’s life today!

 

Resilient Immigrants Achieve Careers in Israel

It is one thing to know a skill in your native language and culture, but it is a whole other thing to adapt that skill to new norms of practice in another country and in a foreign language. With the move, immigrants usually need to upgrade skills or become recertified in their profession. Unfortunately, many may ultimately end up having to switch professions altogether. We are always amazed at the resiliency of new Jewish immigrants who face so many obstacles on their way to integrating into Israeli society!

Witnessing these challenges, we are deeply grateful for our Christian friends around the world who help us provide essential support for immigrants in their first days and months in the Land of Israel. This year, 16 immigrant doctors benefited from recertification and Hebrew language courses, and an additional 27 young people began intensive computer programming courses that provided guaranteed employment upon completion. We are delighted to be a part of helping these 43 Jewish immigrants and their families make essential steps towards finding suitable employment – one of the keys to successful integration.

After 22 years of experience as a doctor of Internal Medicine in Russia, Dr. Irina Denisov made Aliyah to Israel with her husband and nine-year-old daughter. Irina is one of those resilient immigrants who pressed forward in the recertification program for Doctors, which included professional Hebrew classes for medical terminology and clinical observations in a hospital. She is currently in the last phase – a six-month shadowing period at the Children and Emergency Room Internal Medicine Department at the Barzilai Hospital. Once this period is over, she will receive her medical license in Israel from the medical committee.

Yelena and Vladimir Yeshchenko, and their four-year-old daughter, Augustine, made Aliyah from the former Soviet Union. Yelena shared her experience: “While acculturating, we had the opportunity to learn Hebrew in the same building in which we live, and my husband, Vladimir, took the Tel Ran Computer Training course to obtain his programming license in Israel. It turned out to be so much more than formal studies and low rent… We greatly appreciate the help we received from the Aliyah Center workers… My daughter was always happy with the afterschool and summer camp activities of the Aliyah Center, and this enabled us to focus on studies and work.” After successfully completing their vocational trainings, Yelena now works as a psychologist and her husband works as a computer programmer!

Ana Friedman made Aliyah by herself from Belarus and had already obtained her MBA and a master’s degree in Mathematics. Upon her arrival, she dove head-first into the computer programming course. Yet, she and no one else, saw the world pandemic coming. Ana explains: “Six months ago, no one thought that we would need to study at home through zoom. Despite this trying coronavirus period, the staff at the Aliyah Center and Tel Ran College turned our studies into a fascinating journey… We managed to progress in our studies, and we gained so much knowledge - not only of the Hebrew language - but of computer coding as well. We also received answers to any questions we had.”

The computer programming course is designed for young adults, ages 25-40, who have completed their undergraduate degrees and who are proficient in English. Participants are immersed in an intensive curriculum, which demands a serious commitment of 430 hours in computer theory, 350 hours of practical training, 200 hours developing a personal program that is presented at the end of the year, and 500 hours of Ulpan. In addition, all participants are invited to attend specialized workshops that focus on professional cultural adaptation, the job-seeking process, financial planning, and the Israeli tax and national insurance systems

Nicole Yoder, the VP of Aid & Aliyah noted that “Israel is greatly in need of additional medical and high-tech professionals to fill shortages in these key areas. Therefore, we at the ICEJ will continue to support vocational training programs which are so crucial for both new immigrants and the country – particularly in this time of crisis.” In January 2021, we are looking forward to welcoming 20 French immigrants who will soon arrive to begin the program.

Join us in equipping many more Jewish immigrants and their families with the skills, training, and experience they need to thrive in their careers here in the land of Israel!

 

 

Lifting the Druze of Israel

Over the decades, the ICEJ has seen the great importance of assisting all the different peoples living in the Land of Israel, including minorities, in order to strengthen Israeli society as a whole. This has led the Christian Embassy to forge a close partnership over the past eight years with Druze leaders in the North, which is not only lifting the Druze community but also has become a strong point of reconciliation between Jews and Arabs overall.

First of all, you may ask: “Who are the Druze people?”

The Druze are a unique people indigenous to the Middle East who claim descent back to Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses in the Bible. Many centuries ago, they fled the deserts of Midian and found refuge on several high mountain ridges in today’s Israel, Lebanon and Syria – including the Carmel, Galilee and Hermon ranges. Although they speak Arabic, they retain their own ethnic identity. In addition, the Druze are not Muslims but have their own secretive religion which some scholars say contains a mix of Islam, Gnosticism and Greek philosophy. And in general, they tend to be very loyal to the rulers in the land where they live.

The Druze in Israel make up only 1.6% of the population. The Carmel and Galilee Druze (and increasingly the Druze on the Hermon) are very loyal to the State of Israel and in fact they consider it a great honour to serve in the Israeli army to defend their homeland.

A small ICEJ delegation travelled to northern Israel recently to visit several Druze communities and see how some of our ongoing social projects were faring. Our first stop was a Druze elementary school, where we saw teachers interacting with students by singing and dancing to help the children learn in a fun yet memorable way. Some of these young Druze students have a strong desire to further their education at the university level. However, many of their families cannot afford the costs. Therefore, the ICEJ has given scholarships to a number of Druze students in recent years to help them continue their education after high school.

One young Druze lady named Maram Mansor, from Isfiya, was on hand to say that thanks to an ICEJ scholarship she is studying Mathematics, Arabic Language, and Literature at Haifa University. She was most grateful, saying: “I was always dreaming when I was in high school, I really wanted to be a Mathematics teacher. But I was afraid because of my financial status. But now I know that no one has to worry as long as we have generous people and organisations like the International Christian Embassy. So thank you so much… You have made our dreams come true!”

Meanwhile, Maimoon Azmi, also from Isfiya, has been working for the Ministry of Finance for over 13 years now, and credits his success to an ICEJ scholarship. “Thanks to the International Christian Embassy, I had the opportunity to go and study for my first degree… It opened a lot of doors for me. I don’t know if I would have finished school without this scholarship.” 

The next stop was at a Druze middle school, and upon our arrival the students lined the entryway with drums and other instruments to offer us a warm musical welcome. After the grand entrance, another group of students performed a traditional Druze dance in colourful national costumes. This was all meant to say thanks for the support of the ICEJ and several local welfare organizations who are helping with special projects at their school.

After these performances, we stepped into the classrooms to see the students learning through interactive games on the new computers donated by the Christian Embassy. Nicole Yoder, the ICEJ’s Vice President for AID and Aliyah, had the honour of cutting a ribbon celebrating the five new classrooms now equipped with computers. One student named Reem explained how playing games on the computers are helping her to learn English.

After we engaged with the students, Druze community leaders presented our delegation with a beautiful gold plaque to express their appreciation for all the support Christians around the world have been giving to Druze students and communities throughout Israel.

Bahij Mansour, Mayor of Isfiya, also offered his thanks, saying: “We have 17 Druze villages in the state of Israel, and in every place we have something that the Christian Embassy has created. A library, a scholarship, many things. We think the Christian Embassy is taking amazing steps to improve the education system in our community. It is an amazing contribution that you are bringing.”

We ended our visit sitting around a large table with several Druze leaders and enjoyed their spectacular hospitality and a delicious meal of fresh salads, side dishes, meats, dessert and coffee. Several of our Druze hosts shared one word to describe their special people: The Druze people are… “proud”… “brave”… “amazing”… “strong”… “adventurous”… “loyal”… and “peace-loving”.

The Druze are an important part of Israeli society, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help support and strengthen them for a better future here in the Land of Israel.

Partner with us in giving a hope and a future to the children of Israel!

Watch this video below to meet some of the Druze students and hear their success stories!

Spreading a Little Holiday Joy!

 

There is an excitement in the air and greetings of “Shana Tova” can be heard everywhere! On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, there is new hope and optimism after a very trying year.

At Hineni, a soup kitchen in downtown Jerusalem, there is loads of activity happening as the holiday rapidly approaches. The aroma of nourishing food is cooking in the kitchen and ICEJ staff together with other helpers, are preparing take-away meal boxes and packing Rosh Hashanah gift parcels, to be given to those living below the poverty line.

Time is of the essence, as exactly at mid-day the doors open to a queue of people who have been gathering for an hour, so as not to miss out on their meals for the holidays. Each person who arrives at the door receives four packed meals to see them through the long Rosh Hashanah weekend, as well as a lovely gift parcel containing special holiday treats like a jar of honey, apple and honey cakes, dates, biscuits and tinned food.

Hineni’s founder and director, Benjamin Philip, says that over 700 gift parcels were made up for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and around 400 of those are being delivered to Holocaust survivors living in protective care facilities, along with lone soldiers, as well as other underprivileged families throughout Jerusalem who have contacted the Social Welfare department for help. “Many of these people do not have family to visit them, and especially at this time of Coronavirus they are left without support”, says Benjamin.

When the Coronavirus hit Israel last Spring, it was with much joy that the ICEJ stepped in to help Hineni continue to feed the less fortunate in society. With the closing of Israel’s borders, Hineni suddenly lost their many volunteer helpers who come from abroad. Without hesitation, the Christian Embassy saw the need and met it! From March until today, our staff have been assisting Hineni every day to feed those in need by packing approximately 400 take-away food boxes for distribution, and lovingly serving around 100 of those less fortunate who come into the restaurant in person to have their meal. Benjamin says that those coming to the restaurant “have the sense that they are being served by those who have a heart and love for them, which gives them strength.”

The busy preparations for Rosh Hashanah ended with Benjamin thanking all the Hineni staff and volunteers for their hard work and support this past year. He reminded everyone of the story of how God delivered His people from Egypt, as well as the story of Esther and Mordechai and how God saved His people then as well. In these holy days of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it is a time to reflect on the past year, ask for forgiveness, and look with hope to the year ahead. Everyone present celebrated by having a toast of grape juice and a sweet chocolate.

Benjamin also expressed his gratitude to the ICEJ for physically helping in preparing tens of thousands of meal packages this year, which he assured is “saving many people in a very difficult time.”

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of touching the lives of so many people living in need here in Israel. And please consider a generous gift towards our “Israel in Crisis” fund at this time, as we enter the new year still facing the challenge of Corona’s impact, especially on the poor.

Shielding northern Israel’s vulnerable border towns

Within four kilometers of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the village of Hurfeish is home to a mix of Israeli Druze and Christians. The Druze minority are exceptionally loyal to Israel and consider it a great honor to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Many continue in security professions after completing their service with the IDF.

While the Druze and Christian residents of Hurfeish live in peaceful coexistence, the community does face a serious external threat. They live under the constant fear that Hezbollah terrorists operating freely on the Lebanese side of the nearby border will decide to fire rockets into Israel, with Hurfeish right in the line of fire! They literally have seconds to find shelter.

Israel’s entire northern border region is hilly, forested terrain dotted with picturesque villages like Hurfeish. The area is home to around 250,000 residents – an ethnic mosaic of Jewish, Druze and Arab Christian towns and farming communities. One thing they all have in common is a lack of adequate bomb shelters for the local inhabitants.

During a recent spike in tensions with Hizbullah across the border, local council heads learned that the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem had placed over 110 portable bomb shelters in Israeli communities along the volatile southern border with Gaza. So they invited an ICEJ delegation to visit the area and consider donating shelters in the North as well.

After assessing the need, the ICEJ decided that Hurfeish would be the first village to receive shelters. The heartbeat of Hurfeish is its community cultural center. Usually a hive of activity, it is comprised of an outdoor sports complex and the indoor community center which hosts public events, daily activities, and educational courses. Through the generous donations received from our Christian supporters, the ICEJ recently was able to place two bomb shelters at the facility, giving peace of mind to those who use and enjoy it.

Unfortunately, the delivery of the bomb shelters was not without incident. As the truck carrying the two heavy portable bomb shelters made its way through the hills on the way up to Hurfeish, the driver had to break and swerve to avoid a motorcyclist who suddenly cut in front of him. The biker was spared any harm, but the truck’s heavy load – each shelter weighing 23 metric tons - went flying into a nearby field! Thankfully, no one was injured, but the shelters were now flat on their sides.

A police investigation ensued, while an independent engineer examined the shelters for structural damage. To our relief, the damage was only cosmetic, confirming the resilience of these shelters to protect lives! After repainting the bomb shelters, they soon were re-loaded onto a truck and safely delivered to the eagerly awaiting Hurfeish community.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, was thrilled to finally see the shelters in place next to the cultural center and the adjacent sports field, complete with dedication plaques crediting ICEJ-Germany for the donations that made it possible.

Hurfeish also has a village church where local Arab Christians congregate and participate in activities. The ICEJ hopes to embark on a second project in this village, which will see additional shelters being installed at other defenseless sites.

The need remains acute, as Lebanon is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis due to Hizbullah’s misuse of public funds, and some analysts believe the Shi’ite terror militia may seek to extricate itself by starting a war with Israel. The IDF is holding a large training exercise this very week to prepare for such a conflict, but the local residents need more time to install shelters.

A recent State Comptroller report warned that 2.6 million residents of northern Israel do not have access to functional bomb shelters. The need is most acute in the towns right along the border, where shorter range rockets cannot be stopped by the IDF’s Iron Dome batteries. These villages are desperately looking for funding to provide better protection for their communities, and the ICEJ is grateful for our friends worldwide who are enabling us to offer them these urgently-needed bomb shelters.

Please consider a generous donation to help protect the vulnerable communities of northern Israel.

Lifting the Domari People

Have you heard of the Domari people? They are a small tribe of Gypsies who made their way from India to the Middle East around 800 years ago, as opposed to the Romani people who migrated into Europe. Today, approximately 1,000 Domari live in a small Arab quarter within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

These Domari families consider themselves an ethnic minority living within a minority. Although they dwell among Arabs, they do not fully identify as Arabs. They also do not feel recognised as Israelis. Falling somewhere in-between, they find themselves often forgotten by society, which has made them a very close-knit and protective community. They have their own Domari language, which does not use an alphabet. Many of the children drop out of school at an early age and as a result, many are illiterate and uneducated.

When approached by Amoun Sleem, director of the Domari Community Centre in eastern Jerusalem, the ICEJ immediately sought ways to help this minority people struggling to survive during the Coronavirus pandemic. Although their needs are many, we promptly packed food boxes and provided food vouchers for delivery to dozens of Domari families through the community centre.

Walking into the very colorful facility, we were welcomed with Domari hospitality and offered fragrant sage tea and date biscuits. Amoun explained that as a child, she too dropped out of school early because she so often felt discriminated against. Wanting to make a difference for future generations, she started the community centre 20 years ago in her home. Together with Domari children, she learned to read and write. The centre eventually grew and moved into its current location in 2007.

With a focus on educational programs, the Domari centre is a place of hope for some 20 children from six years old upwards. The Dom children participate in after-school activities and are encouraged to persevere to complete their studies. They attend the centre from kindergarten through high school, and only when they graduate does the centre take on new children.

“Many of the children who have graduated, have gone on to complete university degrees or have found good careers,” Amoun said. She even recalls one child becoming a musician! The hope is that these children will continue to support their community as adults.

The Domari centre also provides adult literacy courses and empowers women in their small community. Many of the women are illiterate, downcast, often rejected by men, and dependent on substance abuse. They are taught to make typical Gypsy handicraft items, thereby preserving their culture. When the items are sold, it gives the women an income and helps them gain independence. The beautiful, bright and colorful handiwork is on display at the centre, including embroidered items, fabric painted cushion covers, jewelry, fabric bags, and many more creative works.

“We are so thankful to be able to offer support to the Domari Gypsies,” said Jannie Tolhoek from the ICEJ AID department.

“Thank you to the Christians for coming alongside to help our community”, responded Amoun.

Indeed, thank you to everyone who has supported the AID projects of the Christian Embassy, which are touching and lifting those at the lowest levels of Israeli society.

Please consider making a gift today.

A Shining Light in Nazareth and Bethlehem

Situated in the unlikely location of Nazareth’s industrial zone, you will find an evangelical Arab church dedicated to serving both the Arab and Jewish communities surrounding them.

During this time of Corona crisis, Pastor Saleem Shalash and his church are a shining light for this historic town, which today has Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. With mounting requests for assistance coming in, he recently arranged for church volunteers to help pack Rosh HaShana food baskets for distribution to Israeli families in need. Without hesitation, Nicole Yoder, Vice President of Aid and Aliyah, along with her assistant Jannie Tolhoek, took a road trip to Nazareth, where they too extended a helping hand.

Walking upstairs to the church’s packing area, Jannie was blessed to see a small humanitarian center offering clothes, shoes, and household supplies to those in need. Moving along, they found boxes laid out and many volunteers on hand, so the food packing process sped along joyfully, with much laughter filling the room.

Speaking with Pastor Saleem afterwards, Nicole Yoder shared how joyous it was for the ICEJ to partner with his congregation to help these families in need by providing some 100 food baskets. With much appreciation, Pastor Saleem responded that “God told me to feed His people and to do good in a practical way in bad times.”

This is a mission we certainly share at ICEJ, and Pastor Saleem’s Arab Christian congregation is carrying it out with passion there in Nazareth. Many requests for assistance are referred to the church by the Israeli social welfare department, and they reach out to as many as they can.

When asked by the Jewish mayor of nearby Nof HaGalil why they, as Arabs, are reaching out to the Jewish community, Pastor Saleem said: “We want to bless them as we are blessed by the Jewish Scriptures.” This began a wonderful relationship serving both the Arab community in Nazareth as well as Nof HaGalil, a neighboring Jewish town.

Not long after this visit by our AID team to Nazareth, Jannie Tolhoek drove to a church in Bethlehem along with ICEJ staff member Tricia Neighbors, this time to personally hand out 70 food bags packed at our Jerusalem offices. After a warm welcome by Pastor Naim and Elvira Khoury, they enjoyed fellowship in the evening church service before giving out the food bags. Tricia was especially moved by the expressions of gratitude for the gift baskets, which were received with many happy smiles, thank you’s, and “shukrans”.

During their visit, our team learned about the difficult times faced by the people of Bethlehem. Pastor Naim explained that many locals work in Israel, but with the Coronavirus lockdowns, many have not been able to work or have been sent on unpaid leave. Those who rely on Christian tourism to Bethlehem are also suffering. He thanked the ICEJ, emphasizing how necessary the aid was for them. “Our people are suffering with no work, no food and many are depressed. It is a disaster! Your support came in such a timely way”, he said.

Pastor Naim and Elvira also noted that over recent months, the ICEJ is the first organization which has reached out to see how they are coping during this difficult time, and to support them. He went on to say how the food bags are “an encouragement to each of us, a bag of hope and confirmation that God sees us and watches over us.” Jannie assured him that the ICEJ indeed cares for them and is standing with our Arab Christian brothers and sisters.

Thank you to those who have faithfully given so we can meet the needs of the less fortunate in Israeli society, especially in these difficult days. Your gifts to our “Israel in Crisis” fund at this time are doing a world of good!
 

Please consider donating once more to our “Israel in Crisis” fund. DONATE NOW


Support the extensive ongoing work and witness of the ICEJ by helping us fund our core activities in fulfilling our mandate to support Israel, connect the church, provide education and promote justice.

Donations allow us to maintain funding for emergency projects, and embark on new initiatives to support Israel in these critical days.

Thank you for your ongoing support of ICEJ Canada!


 

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