Loving Thy Neighbor // Congregations Across Israel Respond to COVID-19

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The world has changed its pace. In the last a couple months the rhythm of our lives went off beat, and as hard as it is to believe, this shift has affected every single country in the world. And that includes Israel.

The believers in the land of Israel, like in many other nations, have been prohibited from congregating, so they have been exploring other ways to continue their ministry. Many congregations have been very efficient in caring for their communities.

An electronic sign that updates public transit times. In Hebrew – There will be no travel in the near future (editor: in Hebrew sign: No travel soon)

Here are just a few examples of how it’s been put into practice in congregations across Israel.

Kerem-El – congregation in HAIFA, northern Israel

Many congregants were put on unpaid leave due to businesses being shuttered in compliance with government regulations. Families with children are now caring for their children at home and most of the elderly have been confined to their homes, since the second week of March.

View over Haifa, where Kerem-El Congregation is located

Kerem-El has kept them company and uplifted their hearts through regular online prayer meetings, house groups, and Bible studies, leading the way among congregations throughout Israel. Additionally, the pastors began sending daily devotional videos to encourage studying the Word of God.

We want to keep Kerem-El in our prayers as they make the most out of this situation.

One family from the congregation shared that during the Corona Virus Outbreak the Lord has given them the unique opportunity to worship and study God’s Word together every day. On a regular week, they only did this on Shabbat. Now, since they’re all together at home every day, they teach their three children the Bible every day.

Another member of the congregation had all her university classes moved online. As a new immigrant to Israel, she could not return to her family abroad, so she moved in with a host family from the congregation that usually welcomed her for the holidays. Since she’s been studying from home, she’s been loving the company, shared meals, and times of laughter. She realized she didn’t have such a family home growing up, so this was a gift from God.

Learn More // https://firm.org.il/member/kerem-el-messianic-congregation/

Beit Hallel – congregation in ASHDOD, southern Israel

This vibrant congregation in one of Israel’s most vulnerable areas (near the Gaza Strip) has put a lot of effort into launching a very needed humanitarian aid project for their city. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 lockdowns, a lot of their work was put on hold. Despite having all the necessary permits, their storage and distribution center has been shut down. To the leaders of the congregation it felt not only unjust, but more importantly, it just felt odd!

“This is precisely the time when one has to provide humanitarian aid,” they thought.

Beit Hallel Congregation is in need of our prayers as they face many obstacles and persecution while they continue their ministry work. It became apparent that the religious communities of Ashdod were simply not happy that the Good News of Jesus the Messiah was alive and well. Beit Hallel found a different warehouse to continue their humanitarian work from, and the response has been overwhelming.

Many needy families in Ashdod are able to receive daily necessities thanks to Christian supporters of the congregation.

One group that Beit Hallel is helping with their aid are the Holocaust survivors, all of whom are elderly. Their age group is considered high risk health wise, so they do not feel safe leaving their homes. A trip to the grocery store may seem to take very little effort to us, but for them is a monumental task. Beit Hallel has stepped in to provide food and medicines they need, without putting anyone at risk.

Learn More // https://beit-hallel.org/contact_us/

Tiferet Yeshua – congregation in TEL AVIV, central Israel

With large gatherings still being forbidden, Tiferet Yeshua congregation has made it their priority to be there for others in other ways. They have been praying with congregation members who needed encouragement and coordinated with their team to help those who are in immediate need.

At the beginning of the quarantine, Pastor Gil Afrait shared that he felt the Lord was using this crisis to turn the hearts of the people of Israel to seek Him, and that is exactly what is happening. Family members who were never open to the Gospel suddenly want to hear about Yeshua and are willing to read books about the Messiah. A religious neighbor of one of the believers in Tel Aviv was also suddenly open to dialogue and to hear about Yeshua.

The name of the congregation, Tiferet Yeshua, means the Glory of Jesus, so it is very fitting as it is being proclaimed in Tel Aviv. Pastor Gil wrote on his blog:

“God is always calling us to partner with Him, and especially in this situation: during this time of separation God is calling us to stand in our roles as priests unto God… It is our prayer that God would use the pressures of this pandemic to draw people to him, to soften their hearts, and to give them ears to hear and eyes to see the great salvation He has prepared for them!”

Learn More // https://firm.org.il/member/tiferet-teshua/

ALL ISRAEL TOGETHER

While the usually crowded gathering places for believers have remained eerily empty, the local body of congregations have been standing together for the sake of the Gospel. The internet as well as newfound creativity has brought a different type of closeness.

The Western Wall and many other Holy Sites are closed due to COVID-19

The Body of Messiah in Israel remains strong today and count on your support.

This article originally appeared on FIRM, May 26, 2020, and is reposted with permission.