Caring for widows and orphans in Israel as the Bible instructs us

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The Gospel is very clear about our call to care for the widows and orphans among us. God is a “Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” (Psalm 68:5) What is more, Jesus instructed His disciples to care for the least among them (Matthew 25:40).

The modern-day widows and orphans became single parent homes or broken homes for many different reasons. That is why sometimes it is hard to reach them or know how to help.

But we want to introduce you to some of Israel’s most resilient and persistent world changers. When they couldn’t find a way to help… they paved their own.

Widows and Orphans in Israel

Before we dive in, here’s the reality on the ground. Israel is a rapidly developing country, but many find it difficult to swim in these fast waters. Single parent homes and children without a parent (or both) struggle to make ends meet and keep hope alive.

While the number of widows and widowers has decreased in the recent years in Israel, sadly the single-parent homes continue to increase. To make matters worse, 90% of them are headed by women who tend to earn less than men. This means that on average the monthly expenses of a single-parent home exceed their income.

Then, it is estimated that almost 400 thousand children in Israel are considered at-risk. Out of around ten thousand children removed from their homes by the Ministry of Welfare, only 25% are in foster care. The rest end up in crowded children’s homes and sometimes don’t leave it until they come of age.

And then, a mix of the issues above causes an increase of yet another serious problem in Israel. Namely, abortion. Statistics say that one in every five pregnancies in Israel results in abortion.

That’s alarming! Expedited abortions done by young girls in the mandatory military service, otherwise they get dishonorably discharged.

All the above facts about ‘the widow and the orphan’ are depressing. Is there anything that can be done to change this? Israeli ministries believe that yes, there is.

Support for the Widow and Her Children

When new immigrant families arrive in Israel, they usually go through a rough adjustment period. Depending on the country of origin, they have a lot to learn, including a new language. Single mothers often do not have the time or resources to learn Hebrew fluently enough to use it professionally. So often, they have to settle for low-income jobs.

A ministry in southern Israel was founded to meet this great need for counseling, assistance, and support. Streams in the Desert strives to bring restoration to families at risk through the power of the Gospel and acts of service.

This ministry began with a vision to help single mothers. But it quickly became apparent that effective ministry to single mothers must also involve their children. Thus, Streams in the Desert evolved with a dual vision and purpose. They exist to help and strengthen both the widow (single parents) and the orphan (inc. children from single parent homes).

Marianna Gol, the director of the ministry, does not want to leave the responsibility of widows and orphans up to the government only. She believes that biblically this is a calling for the body of believers. They are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus and a voice to the brokenhearted.

Streams in the Desert provides vocational training for families, discipleship for youth, camps for children, and more. With other congregations and community centers, they organize events, provide aid to immigrants, and support those in economic need. But above all, they strive to bring the Lord’s presence into our society.

As they minister to the needy in the love of Jesus, they see the healing power of God flooding into the dry and barren places.

Building a Family for the Orphan

It is staggering that, on average, only 120 Israeli children are adopted each year. These statistics inspired a young and vibrant organization in Jerusalem to expand their work to raise awareness and equip families to meet this challenge.

HaTikva Project feels specifically called to encourage and equip the Israeli Body of Messiah to take a leading role in caring for children in need. For that reason, they expanded their ministry to promote and facilitate adoption and foster care in Israel.

“I believe that adopting a child is the fullness of the expression of the gospel. To take someone who can offer you nothing and give them everything because of love, is what Yeshua (Jesus) did for us.” Evan Levine, Executive Director of HaTikva Project

The ministry took heed of the words of James: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” (James 1:27)

HaTikva Project is now in the process of establishing a loving emergency shelter home for abandoned and hurting children. It will be a safe landing spot for children in crisis who have been ripped from the familiar.

Thanks to the generous giving of Christians worldwide the ministry has already found and renovated a suitable home. The foster parents are getting extensive guidance and training. And as the project moves forward, hope rises. Soon, many Israeli children in need of a loving home will have someone to come home to.

Caring for the Unborn

Many women who get pregnant do not even want to try facing the challenges of being a single mom. Which leads to another serious problem in Israel – abortion. As mentioned before, every fourth or fifth pregnancy in Israel ends in abortion.

In 1977 the state of Israel legalized abortion through — what has been referred to as — one of the most liberal abortion policies in the world. Some years later, a group of local believers were stirred to action and formed an official pro-life non-profit organization called Be’ad Chaim (Pro-Life).

Initially, Be’ad Chaim consisted of concerned believers focused on intercession and raising awareness. But over the decades, it grew to a large, nationally recognized beacon of practical assistance and redemptive resources.

Aside from protecting the unborn, Be’ad Chaim brings counsel and healing to those hurting from PAS (post abortion syndrome). They also supply practical help to mothers who choose to keep their babies. Be’ad Chaim knows that it is not enough to stand against abortion. The battle doesn’t end with carrying a pregnancy to term, because about 300 babies in Israel get abandoned at hospitals each year.

That is why in 2006, Be’ad Chaim started its largest program, Operation Moses. Its vision is to support the mother and the baby in their first year of life together. Be’ad Chaim gives mothers vital aid such as diapers, cribs, strollers, and more.

“We are able to tell the moms, we aren’t just going to counsel you. We aren’t just going to speak to you. We’re also going to give you practical help. And that persuades many of the struggling women,” says Sandy Shoshani, director of Be’ad Chaim.

Since launching Operation Moses, through donations and sponsorships, Be’ad Chaim has been able to help save the lives of 1,500 babies.

The Responsibility of a Believer for Widow and Orphan

In a dark world, it is so encouraging to hear about the work done by ministries like the ones mentioned above. Bringing hope to the hopeless, they inspire many more to do the same. And they also invite you and me to partner with them.

It is time to represent the heart of the Father in Heaven to the ‘widows and orphans’ in Israel. Through FIRM, you can transform lives in Israel in a Gospel-centered way. As believers, the global Body of the Messiah, we have an opportunity to represent Jesus to His brothers and sisters.

Romans 15:26-27 describes how the Apostle Paul would take up offerings for the poor saints in Jerusalem whenever the Lord would provide an opportunity. Beyond this, Paul states that Gentiles who have received the riches of the Gospel owe a debt to the Jewish people that can be properly repaid through the ministry of material goods:

“And they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” (v. 27)

This article originally appeared on FIRM, August 9, 2021, and reposted with permission.