From My Heart, in Jerusalem

by Jill Czelusta

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? …And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  Matthew 25:27, 40

Shalom from Jerusalem! There are many dates in history that mark significant events in the life of a nation.  December 7, 1949, “A Day that will live in infamy,” as described by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, marks a tragic event in American History. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  9/11 needs less explanation for Americans since it is a much more recent event.

The Holocaust is an event that is needing more and more explanation as the World War II generation is reaching its end. There are fewer and fewer survivors of the various death camps who can tell their stories, keeping the cries of “Never Again” alive. It is becoming easier for the world to ignore or deny those horrific events that took place throughout Europe.

Unfortunately, in the life of the nation of Israel, October 7 will be a date that is forever etched in the timeline of the history of modern Israel. As I spend time in Jerusalem, the atmosphere is thick with grief and uncertainty. There is barely a citizen who has not attended one or more funerals for the victims of the massacre or for soldiers from the war in Gaza. Just about everyone has a son or daughter, or a sibling, or a parent, or a grandchild that has been called up for service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Over all the years that I have volunteered in Israel, I have gotten used to seeing “off duty” IDF soldiers on busses, in stores, and generally everywhere, a few carrying their weapons. But it is a bit different to see those same soldiers carrying their weapons with them everywhere, even when out of uniform.

I have only been back in Israel since Mid-April, but I have met many people who are still reeling from their experiences. Some want to talk about it; others just stare silently at the floor. It will be that way for a long time. It is my prayer that my volunteering at such a time as this will bring encouragement to the people I meet every day.

Already I have had some amazing encounters with individuals, both officially while serving with Bridges for Peace, and unofficially as I have had conversations with my new neighbors or people I meet on the street. I would like to share a couple of examples.

I serve as the Food Bank Floor Supervisor at the Bridges for Peace Jerusalem Assistance Center (JAC). We have people come in daily who need our services. While most of the time they stay behind the glass that separates the warehouse from the front office, occasionally someone comes onto the Food Bank floor. We are always encouraged to greet people and interact with them, telling them where we are from.  It is fun to see their eyes widen as they learn that the volunteers working around the big, white packing tables are from America, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Japan, Russia, and South Africa. Others serving with BFP are from Ireland, Namibia, Wales, England, and Sweden. While I have had that same conversation through the years, this year is different. Almost always they add, “You are here during the war?” and their “Thank you” is even more enthusiastic.

Besides the weekly packing of dry goods, meat, dairy, fresh fruit and veggies, we also go out on special projects. One such project is shown in the “Beacon of Hope” video (see below).  Because of the war, both south near Gaza and north near Lebanon, Israel currently has about 100,000 displaced people. Their lives are in limbo, not knowing when or if they will return to their homes and their lives.  

While the video does a wonderful job explaining our project, I will add that we had many of those displaced people come into the formerly empty room to see Christians from around the world busily working, sometimes on their hands and knees on the bare concrete floor, building couches, tables, chairs, or cupboards for all the new kitchen supplies, as well as shelves for the children’s games. The amazing transformation of an empty room to a community center allows these displaced people to gather, as a community, to love and support one another. People who gather there will always be reminded that this room was transformed by Christians from around the world who love them!  I was blessed to be a part of that project.

I would like to thank Betsy personally for her encouragement and support as I have served in Israel.  I would also like to thank the ministry of Women of the Word for its financial support. May the Lord continue to bless this ministry as it serves the Lord faithfully.  

Women of the Word is a non-profit organization conducting Christian women’s conference and online Christian Bible studies. We support Israel, hosting tours to Israel, ministry trips, financial giving and prayer. We treasure the friendships we have with people living in the land. Please visit our Eyes on Israel page for more information.

Betsy Roy is the Director of Women of the Word. WOW serves women of all denominations, cultures and ages and is focused on teaching biblical principles and their application in daily life.