With almost one-quarter of Israeli citizens living below the poverty line, the Passover holiday highlights the desperate economic crisis that many face in this country.
One of the three major biblical feasts, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) involves many meals with extended family, beginning with the seder that marks the first night of Passover. This year the feast, which commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelites from ancient Egypt, begins at sundown on Friday.
Leading up to the week-long holiday, observant families rid their homes of bread products and anything containing leaven and must switch over to kosher-for-Passover products instead.
This and the extra festive meals that mark the holiday, come at a high cost for many families, especially for those who already struggling to cover basic needs like food, clothing and utilities throughout the year.
However, it also presents an opportunity to show the big heart Israelis have as charitable organizations here rally to help thousands of needy families across the country celebrate the holiday through donations and gifts of food packages.
Many Messianic and Christian organizations in Israel also use this time to reach out to people in need. Kehila News Israel (KNI) interviewed three of them about what they do to make a difference in their communities.
Hope for Israel
Hope for Israel (HFI) helped some 1,000 families in Israel celebrate the holiday this year through its “Operation Hesed: Passover” project. Working directly with some families and through local congregations as well, HFI distributed food packages and grocery vouchers in various amounts depending on the size and the specific situation of a family.
“It is a great joy to be a source of blessing during this special season so that all can participate in the Lord’s appointed times here in Israel,” Melissa Rosenblitt told KNI.
HFI, run by Moran and Melissa Rosenblitt, is an Israel-based ministry that invests in the local community — both Jews and Arabs, believers and nonbelievers alike — through humanitarian outreach, discipleship and emergency relief. They sponsor Operation Hesed project twice a year, at Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
“Operation Hesed (Grace)” helps both believers and non believers during this time.
“It is an opportunity for us to be a tangible source of blessing to the people of Israel,” Melissa said. “Our goal is to relieve some stress that so many parents are under to provide this essential need of food for their families.”
This holiday season, E.L.Y. Families focused on helping single-parent families. Naamah Smith, E.L.Y. Families project manager, said the organization gave vouchers to some 200 single moms and to several families in financial straits.
“During Passover, you need to buy more food than usual and new clothes. So with one parent and only one income, it is a more challenging time for these families,” Smith told KNI.
In cooperation with local congregations, E.L.Y. Families held several events throughout Israel leading up to the holiday to distribute these gifts. It is at these events that real ministry happens.
“When we meet people at our events, we end up speaking with them one on one and we get to know them,” Smith told KNI. “We discover all sorts of challenges that they are coping with. With this knowledge, we can better help them.”
E.L.Y. refers the people they help to local congregations and provides support to the congregation’s leaders in meeting their specific needs.
“Not everyone knows how to deal with every specific challenge, so we work with the local congregations to strengthen them in reaching out,” she said
E.L.Y. Families, an extension of CBN Israel, aims to help believers overcome personal economic crises and become financially independent. The organization sponsors seminars and offers personal coaching to provide them with tools to escape the cycle of poverty
Home of Jesus the King Church
Based in Nazareth, this local church of Arab believers is a real light to the people of various cultures and religious backgrounds who visit the city where Jesus grew up.
“For us it is very important because during this time a lot of Jews come to Nazareth and it is a very good opportunity for us to share the Gospel with them,” Saleem Shalash, pastor of Home of Jesus the King, told KNI. “As Arabs it is sometimes easier for us to share the Gospel with the Jews.
As Passover coincides with Easter, the church’s outreach is twofold helping needy families of both religions. Though the church delivers food packages on a monthly basis and has another massive outreach during Christmas as well, during this time they quadrupled their monthly donations and gave nearly 200 food packages to families in need.
“The good thing is that people can see us in action, more than talk,” Shalash said. “People get bored from preaching and teaching. They want to see.”
The church printed 1,000 magnets that declare in Arabic that Jesus is the way. These magnets will be distributed by a Messianic Jewish congregation during an outreach to Arab villages.
The Nazareth church also opened its doors for a children’s Easter activity for anyone to attend. Some 30 children from the city learned about about the symbols of East and the meaning of the resurrection
Editor’s note: Many Messianic and Christian ministries and congregations in Israel organize humanitarian aid outreaches throughout the year. We highlighted three in this article for Passover and will continue to cover other ministries in following articles.