Since 1999 young Israeli travelers, often immediately following army service, have enjoyed a warm welcome and generous hospitality in Chiburim homes.
Chiburim (“connections” in Hebrew), is the name of an international hosting network for Israeli travelers that currently operates in 23 countries, linking Christian hosts who love Israel with Israeli travelers.
The founder of Chiburim himself travelled with Israeli friends along the same routes young Israelis do today. Yaron explained in an interview with KNI that his experiences as a backpacker helped him to understand the need for hospitality. According to a statement on his website, Yaron hopes, “with all my heart that Chiburim will encourage people around the world to express their support for Israel and give a lot of encouragement to Israeli travelers.”
Yaron initially wrote about his travel experiences and the concept of hosting Israelis in Christian homes. After sharing with leaders in his congregation, he was encouraged to establish such a network for the benefit of Israelis, who sometimes feel vulnerable and disoriented while traveling the world after an intense three years in the army.
“To date, some 30,000 Israeli travelers have stayed multiple days, sometimes weeks, with multiple hosts,“ Yaron explained. “They particularly appreciate that someone friendly and somewhere safe is waiting for them and the uniqueness of Chiburim is that they always provide the host’s contact details for free.”
Indeed, travelers have expressed that sentiment.
“It makes me feel so relaxed to get to Australia and know that someone will be there for me,” said Galit.
“We are great supporters of Chiburim and stay with as many families as possible,” said Nadav, another traveller. “We truly appreciate the approach of Chiburim in not charging money from Israeli travelers to contact hosts.”
Chiburim asks hosts to provide a warm welcome and accommodation, although they may choose to ask for a small donation to help with costs. Hosts with existing commercial accommodation are asked to give a discount to Israeli travelers. The guests value the fact that neither the Chiburim network nor the hosts are seeking to make profit from them.
For many the atmosphere of warmth and hospitality can be truly touching since so many around the world would not welcome Israelis.
“At a certain point I noticed that while you were playing the guitar and singing, all five of us were completely happy,” Arik told his hosts. “Maybe it’s thanks to the heavenly environment around, maybe it’s thanks to you, maybe all of us together and for sure thanks to God!”
Similarly, hosts also benefit from the rich cultural experience.
“Hosting is a great way to learn about Israel and its people,” one host reported. “It has given me a better understanding of the Old Testament and at the same time, made many new friends.”
Another family said that “The God of Israel has placed a real love of Israel and its people in our hearts.”
“As far as we are concerned, it is very much a two way street. Yes we do offer them a place to stay and maybe food or whatever, but in return we have been blessed in many ways. When people live in your home, you build much stronger friendships than in normal circumstances. They become kind of like family, and as a result of this we now have many families in Israel where we can stay.”
Other families have felt that they are fulfilling a Biblical mandate to love and bless Israel and be blessed in return, according to Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you.”
“It is always a pleasure to host Israeli travelers,” said one host. “This is a practical way I can show support for them, especially in view of the propaganda war being waged against them in the media. Also, because I understand how it feels to be a traveller in a strange land, as I have travelled in Israel and been very warmly hosted by Israeli families. Am Yisrael chai!”
Yaron said that Chiburim operates in 23 countries at the moment and is looking to expand the constantly growing network to other nations. Currently hosts are located in Austria, Australia, Italy, Ireland, Argentina, USA, Britain and Northern Ireland, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Poland, Fiji, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, France, Canada, Switzerland and Thailand.
Yaron invites believers from anywhere, with suitable accommodations, to find out more about hosting by accessing the Chiburim website.