Israel is not free of substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or more. Many people who fall into the trap of addiction end up homeless on the streets. These people often lose hope and don’t see a way out of their dire circumstances. So they sink deeper into addictions and despair.
Unless someone brings a message of hope to them.
While most people avoid rough areas with drug addicts and homeless in any city, there is a group in Israel that searches them out.
House of Victory in Haifa serves “the poor who are cast out” (according to Isaiah 58:6-7). They reach out to the afflicted with an offer of practical help while sharing the good news of salvation in Yeshua (Jesus).
Fighting Addiction in Israel
According to the latest Drug and Alcohol Epidemiological Survey, for all drugs, males reported higher prevalence rates than females. Israel’s drug prevention interventions are implemented throughout the country, targeting the general and at-risk populations.
Under the ‘prevention for all’ approach, programs are geared towards children, youth, parents, professionals in the workplace, university students and soldiers. These programs seek to promote a social climate that rejects drugs and drug use.
Although Israeli government is doing what it can to handle the impact of the pandemic on the country, the economic downturn has seriously impacted the nation. It is so sad to see the rise of poverty in the land.
There are more and more homeless on the streets of bigger cities, like Tel Aviv or Haifa. But House of Victory staff and volunteers meet them right there, to challenge them into entering their program. Their goal is to help these men battle their substance abuse, help them get healthy, and point to hope for their future, found in Jesus the Messiah.
House of Victory in Haifa
House of Victory is a warm, family environment, where men with backgrounds of substance abuse are invited to live free of charge. It is Israel’s first Bible-based residential rehabilitation center.
Residents of the House receive counseling and professional help to leave hopelessness and despair behind. They receive assistance to set their paths straight while being introduced to the good news of the Messiah.
While going through a recovery therapy the men who joined the House are also introduced to the Gospel. Through studying the Word of God and learning the truth of salvation in Yeshua, their lives are completely transformed. Here, they are taught how to build fruitful lives, filled with peace and joy.
And through the power of the Holy Spirit, the home has also become a place of reconciliation. The House is open to Jews and Arabs alike, so they have no choice but to learn how to live together and experience forgiveness of Yeshua.
A Personal Story
Over the years, House of Victory has impacted many lives all around Israel. Addiction is a horrible enemy, so not every story has a happy ending. That is why the love and joy over those who were set free is so great. And one such beautiful story of freedom and restoration is that of Eliel.
Eliel was born in Uzbekistan, where his parents first divorced, and not long after that his father passed away. Once the communist regime fell, it made Aliyah possible, so Eliel’s mother decided to take him and his siblings to Israel.
She quickly found a home at Kehilat HaCarmel (messianic congregation near Haifa) and became a believer. But her children remained sceptical.
“She wanted us to join her at her congregation,” Eliel recalled. “Every time I denied her invitation, my life would get worse.”
Finding Freedom from Substance Abuse
Eliel experimented with drugs, each time trying stronger and heavier ones. His addiction led him to become homeless, on the streets of Israel. Eventually, he got arrested and his mother came to visit him. Despite his poor state, she said that her entire congregation was praying for him.
Somehow that little sign of care inspired him. Eliel grabbed one of the other guys in his cell and said, “Come on, let’s pray that God would help us!”
It was the first time he ever found himself on his knees – in a prison cell. The next day Eliel was taken to court, to hear his prison sentence. Miraculously, the judge told him to go home. Eliel couldn’t believe it, and the only answer he could think of was… God.
Eliel’s mother told him about House of Victory, which was founded by the pastors of Kehilat HaCarmel, David and Karen Davis. Eliel learned that it was a ministry that helped people get set free from substance abuse.
Overcoming Addiction in Israel
At the congregation, Eliel was taken aback how well everyone treated him. Everyone was genuinely caring and nice. At the time the House of Victory was full, Eliel was desperate enough to keep going back, until there was room for him.
There, Eliel truly felt like God saved his life. At one of the regular prayer meetings at the House, someone asked a question, if anyone wanted to turn the page and start a new life. Eliel got out of his seat, went to the front and prayed the sinner’s prayer.
Only on the next day, he had a supernatural revelation that once and for all showed him a way to freedom. Eliel realized he was struggling for years with the loss – and lack of approval – of his father.
“I was looking for the love of a father, and I realized God was my Father – everything I needed I had in Him,” Eliel shared.
From the Top of the World Down the Dark Alley
Another miraculous story is that of Patrick, who lived around the world before he landed in Israel, battling addiction. He was born in Holland, lived in Australia, South Africa and France, before his family made Aliyah to Israel. This complicated journey made him hate Israel and blame it for all difficulties he experienced.
Wanting a new start, Patrick moved back to Holland, but there, he tried some very strong drugs. On one hand, he liked how it numbed everything he was feeling. On the other, he knew that the drugs were getting him into a lot of trouble. They even landed him in prison.
Searching an escape again, Patrick returned to Israel and started working in his profession – as a sous-chef. He got very good very fast, which came with recognition, fame and money. But sadly, these brought him right back to the streets.
“I got used to it, I was back to being homeless and taking drugs,” Patrick confessed. On the street, Patrick started meeting many people – and not only the other homeless. These new visitors kept telling Patrick about Jesus. And as they kept coming back, they were repeating, Jesus loves you.
Who is Yeshua?
Patrick and his visitors were spending more and more time together. Small talk turned to lengthy conversations. They often brought a warm cup of coffee or an extra blanket.
But one thing did not quite add up. They kept telling him about Jesus, whom he knew to be this blond, blue-eyed Swede or Norwegian. Why are they bringing him to Israel?
When Patrick landed at the House of Victory, he was surprised how many faces he recognized. When you live on the streets of Tel Aviv long enough, you learn who is who. But here, they seemed different. They were changed, and Patrick thought, I need what they have!
At House of Victory, Patrick learned that Jesus has a Hebrew name – Yeshua. Mind-blowing at first, this revelation started changing his life bit by bit.
“I was in and out drugs before, but this time it was different,” Patrick said with conviction. “I needed [to know] the Truth, and there are more people in Israel who need it!”
Hope for the Hopeless
The stories of Eliel and Patrick are not just their personal stories of overcoming. They are an inspiration and an encouragement for every person who works or registers at House of Victory. And to serve in this environment it takes courage and a heart for the outcast.
Eric Benson worked with multiple outreach and rehabilitation programs at Times Square Church in New York City. That is where his heart was moved to start reaching out to the homeless and addicts on the streets. He furthered his training in working with men with backgrounds in substance abuse.
As a believer with a great love for the Jewish people, in early 1990s Eric moved to Haifa, to work at the House of Victory, founded by the Davis’ of Kehilat HaCarmel. In 1996 Eric became the director of House of Victory.
Eric has initiated the Tel Aviv Outreach, leading teams weekly to minister to the homeless, drug addicts and prostitutes.
Help Israelis Overcome Substance Abuse
The men who decide to live at the House of Victory get a chance to go through a lasting transformation. Before, they thought their lives were lost and worthless. Many who are living on the streets give up hope of ever changing their circumstances.
This is why Israel needs places like House of Victory. And together, we want to support their work, praying for a better future for many Israelis.
This article originally appeared on FIRM, December 14, 2021, and reposted with permission.