Believing ministries adapt to restrictions, step up efforts to help during corona crisis

An ICEJ volunteer nurse caring for a Holocaust survivor in Haifa amid the coronavirus crisis. (ICEJ photo)

Wearing a mask and gloves, Daniel Kirchhevel hauled a food package out of his car and headed into a building in Jerusalem to drop it off before the government announced further restrictions that could clamp down on humanitarian efforts.

Kirchhevel, deputy of international projects for Bridges for Peace, said the organization was doubling its efforts to make sure no one would go hungry as Israel implemented increasingly stricter rules on home sheltering in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

“This is us all day,” Kirchhevel told Kehila News as he climbed the steps of apartment number 30 in Jerusalem. “We have another team in another part of town. We are pushing out all of next month’s deliveries now in case the country shuts down.”

Bridges for Peace and others like it are adjusting to the new reality that the outbreak of COVID-19 has presented, which includes a country teetering on the verge of a full two-week quarantine for all residents. This has left many vulnerable residents, particularly the elderly and disabled, home alone with little relief.

Ministries have become flexible and creative in order to meet these needs. When the Health Ministry imposed new restrictions that people can no longer congregate, the Aviv Ministry moved its soup kitchen in the Tel Aviv area outside the center.

“We set up a table outside and feed people as they come by instead,” director Dov Bikas told Kehila News. 

Another organization particularly equipped to help during this crisis has been the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. David Parsons, VP and spokesman for the organization, told Kehila News that the manager of the ICEJ’s home for Holocaust survivors acted fast right from the start. 

ICEJ AID Deputy Director Yudit Setz told her team to stay in the home so they wouldn’t risk exposure to the virus, and possibly infect the elderly residents. Now, it is the Christian staff and volunteers who are uniquely equipped to safely serve the 70 residents of the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors plus the community.

“Because of that it is our Christian volunteers who can go door to door,” Parsons said, adding that they wear hazmat suits as they deliver food. “A nurse goes around taking temperatures. We have a physical therapist. And others at the home for Holocaust survivors bring food to the residents’ rooms because they can’t eat in the communal dining room.” 

“It is our Christians volunteers who are the ones taking care of our residents,” Parsons emphasized.

The staff packs and delivers food to the elderly and disabled in Haifa in cooperation with the Israeli charity Yad Ezer L’Haver. This week, the ICEJ will work with two other Israeli charities, Latet and Ezrat Avot, to deliver more food boxes. However, to get around the Health Ministry restrictions that only two people can be in a car at a time unless it is family, Parsons’s family along with ICEJ President Jürgen Bühler and his family, will be making the deliveries. 

“We are working within the rules set by the Health Ministry to help Israelis as much as we can in this troubling time confronting the whole world,” Bühler said in a news release. “We know it is in difficult moments like these when our efforts to bless and comfort Israel count the most.”

The economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with half a million Israelis suddenly facing unemployment, has left many around Israel wondering how they will have a Passover meal.

“Thousands of Israelis wring their hands as they consider all it will cost – quite possibly not enough money to feed their own children,” said Saleem Shalash, pastor of Home of Jesus the King Church in Nazareth. “But this year, their needs have multiplied exponentially as families who previously needed just a helping hand are now left in desperate straits, trying to feed their many children with no salary coming in.”

In light of this crisis, Shalash said his church wants to double its annual Passover and Easter packages, to both Jewish and Arab families celebrating Easter and is working hard to do so.