While most of the country was reducing its services or shutting its doors entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aviv Ministry was able to expand its women’s shelter into a more spacious facility in Beersheva and is already welcoming new residents.
Though the Beersheva shelter has been operating for several months, it expanded into a private and spacious five-bedroom home with a large salon on May 1. The shelter provides a refuge for women escaping tough domestic situations and a secure place for them to rebuild their lives.
“The home will be a launching point for them to get back on their feet and resettled,” Dov Bikas, head of Aviv Ministry, told Kehila News.
Aviv Ministry, working in cooperation with a secular Israeli anti-violence organization, will provide women with emotional and practical support at the shelter, which will be operated by one full-time employee and local and international volunteers.
Bikas, who has been ministering to various segments of Israel’s population since 1990, said this type of work — new for Aviv Ministry — has long been on his heart.
“Ten years ago a woman came to my congregation. She had been married for 11 years and she suffered from violent domestic abuse,” Bikas recalled. “I was a pastor of about 15 years and I didn’t know a thing about domestic abuse at the time. I started learning and reading anything I could find about the topic. I was in shock from what I learned: One in every four families — even among believers — suffers from domestic violence.”
Bikas began to hear about other women who were escaping abusive situations but had nowhere to live and no one to help.
“One after the other,” Bikas said. “I thought, this must be from God.”
The cycle of domestic abuse is exacerbated by men who control a relationship so that the women become financially and emotionally dependent on them, Bikas explained. The women usually have no money, and even if they had got good education, they suffer from a lack of confidence and a low self esteem. They are set up for failure if they try to stake out on their own. They know they have to start from zero. They must find a place to stay and a job. As a rule, they also need psychological help.
Knowing she has nowhere to go and no tools to become independent, an abused woman feels trapped and most decide against breaking out of this cycle, which is why Bikas felt compelled to get this shelter up and running.
“I felt it was time to do something else big in my life,” Bikas said after he turned 60. “Besides, at present, except for a small apartment for abused women in Jerusalem and a couple of rehab centers for women who are drug addicts, as far as we know, there are no Christian shelters for women and children in crisis in Israel.”
Since 2005, Aviv Ministry has been operating other outreaches including a men’s rehabilitation center in Beersheva and a soup kitchen that reaches the homeless and drug addicts in Tel Aviv.
While the idea of a women’s shelter was percolating in Bikas’ spirit, he happened to meet someone from Spain who told him about a shelter for women in her country. Up to 70 percent of the women who went there came to faith. He decided that would be a good model for building a similar shelter in Israel.
The first woman moved into the Beersheva shelter with her children in January and was able to stay there during her court proceedings. After receiving a favorable ruling, she had the time to regroup and find a new place to live.
Now Bikas is inviting congregations around the country to refer women who may need this type of support to the shelter.
“We are convinced that this ministry is a great evangelistic tool that can show God’s love and care not only to women who are in need of help but also to many people around them including relatives, social workers and judges,” Bikas said.
For more information or to help, please contact: Dov: 054-4997336; Tatyana: 052-5959971.