“Do not cast me away when I am old, do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” – Psalm 71:9
The body of Messianic believers in Israel is growing with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 believers living here. And yet, the only Messianic old age home in Israel, Ebenezer in Haifa, has only 30 residents and a license for no more than 48 beds.
Two years ago, Zvi Randelman took upon himself the initiative to establish a Messianic senior living project, named Beit Hesed – House of Grace. Building the home will cost approximately $22 million and will take seven to eight years to complete.
In terms of costs, scope, complexity and time, this could be one of the most ambitious projects in the Messianic body in Israel ever.
“The pioneers of the faith are all growing older,” Randelman told KNI. “There’s a huge need. I realized we need to at least partially meet the needs of the Body, as the Body has gotten so much larger since 1976 when Ebenezer was built. We have a large elderly population, and they suffer not only from medical needs, but also loneliness.”
In a promotional video for Beit Hesed, Meno Kalisher, pastor of Jerusalem Assembly congregation, said that family members and loved ones “need to be in a Messianic believing environment particularly in the final stage” of life. They need “a place where they can worship, pray, to declare the name Yeshua in the open and not have to hide their faith.”
The home will be built in an area that belongs to the Messianic moshav Yad Hashmona, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Randelman explains to KNI that the non-profit they have formed will provide the legal framework for the project including raising donations for financing the building of the facility, but once it’s operational Beit Hesed will be self-sufficient. The ongoing costs will be financed entirely by the residents’ rent and from state subsidies, which will be secured by making sure to comply with all the state regulations. Donations that still come in will help people that fall between the cracks and maybe some extra special projects.
“Donors should know that they are sowing into something which will be able to stand on its own,” Randelman said.
Randelman approached Yad Hashmona two years ago with his plan but was initially met with skepticism.
“People had already approached them in the past with this type of vision, but they weren’t realistic. When Yad Hashmona asked me how long time it would take and how much it would cost, and I told them five to eight years to build and between $20 to 30 million dollars, they realized that I was being realistic about the magnitude of the project.”
Randelman and the moshav leadership spent a year in negotiations while refining the vision and building a business plan.”
Ayelet Ronen, of Yad Hashmona’s leadership committee, said they overcame their initial skepticism, checked the business plan and looked into the government requirements for such a place.
“We believe that if God opens this door, and this vision comes to pass, and if the finances are forthcoming, then it’s a confirmation that we’re on the right path,” she said.
Located at the entrance to Yad Hashmona, Beit Hesed will have 40 units of independent living, 33 units of assisted living and 36 beds for nursing facilities, Randelman said, noting it is accessible from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv even Beer Sheva. The home will have at least 50 people on staff, providing employment for believers as well.
“We have a business plan because we want to provide regular market salaries to our staff, to attract the right and most professional workers,” Randelman said.
In the early 1980s, an initiative to establish a Messianic old-age home in Jerusalem failed, not because of lack of funding, but because of lack of local believers qualified to work in such a facility. Times have changed the past 40 years. Now, hundreds of believing doctors and nurses in Israel are even organized under the network, Healthcare Believers Fellowship, and so Randelman sees no problems finding personnel for the center.
Randelman has two teams of architects, one with experience in building senior living facilities while the other architect has experience with “moshavim” in the area and local authorities. Randelman hopes they can get zoning changes fast tracked and then get the building rights and all the permits needed.
“Altogether we are talking about seven or eight years until it opens,” Randelman said.
He had to sacrifice on some of the services he wanted to offer.
“We really wanted to provide memory care as well, for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, but it would be too big a project,” he said. “It would add 14 million shekels, and the building would be too huge. We are already at 6,000 square meters. I realized that we have to be realistic if we’re going to get this project off the ground.”
Ebenezer in Haifa is operating with a legal license, but they do not receive any subsidies from the government and they do not yet have a state-approved licensed nursing ward. They are dependent on donations for 70 percent of their budget. The vision for Beit Hesed is to secure all the licenses and approvals from the start, to cover the budget with residents’ payments and government subsidies.
“I talked to the Welfare Ministry. Just as there are old age homes for religious and ultra-Orthodox, we can build one that is intended for Messianic and Evangelical Christians. I told them we will also be open for Evangelical Israeli Arabs,” Randelman noted. “We are, of course, not allowed to discriminate, but the home will have this character, and people will decide based on that whether they wish to live there. As far as Yad Hashmona is concerned, we have signed a memorandum of understanding for use of the land.”
Randelman and his team decided early on that they wanted to set the home up as a non-profit and raise donations, rather than setting it up a business and looking for investors. That way any profit the organization makes will be invested directly in the welfare of the residents rather than paying off dividends or interests, and the costs for the residents will be much lower than they would be under a pure business model.
“Two years ago, when this idea was new, me and my wife prayed over this vision and we asked God for a sign. I felt I couldn’t take any further step unless I knew this was from God,” Randelman said. “We asked as a sign a donation of between $200,000 and $300,000. One day later, a sister in the Lord who knew about our plans told us that someone she met heard about it and wanted to donate $250,000. That was the sign. This is what enabled us to get started, hire the architect and everything we have been doing until now. I am certain that if the Lord has provided that, he will provide what we need to build the facility as well.”
Randelman asked for prayer for patience and perseverance as well as funding for the home.
“There have been times that I have felt like giving up on the project. But we press on, believing it is of God. We are building the foundations, and the first stages of planning took longer than I thought. Hopefully from now it will go faster, as we are moving forward. From now, I suppose the biggest challenge will be the funding, but we trust the Lord. It’s a unique project. We also need a lot of prayers for all the bureaucracy. To get anything done with bureaucracy in this country, you need a lot of prayer. Especially when we start to work with the local authorities and the rezoning of the land. These are the types of things that could really get stuck. We need prayer warriors to pray that the Lord will open these doors quickly.”
Samuel Smadja, local pastor and president of Sar-El Tours, is backing the project as well with advice and promotion.
“Supporting the elderly is important, and as leaders of the Messianic body we all need to think how we can help and support this,” he said at a conference in 2019 when the project was presented to local leaders.
Johnny Khoury, manager of Ebenezer, also spoke at the same conference.
“’Honor your father and your mother’ is not just lip service. Our parents deserve the best care, and it doesn’t matter how high the costs are,” Khoury said.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you.” – Isaiah 46:4