Shevet Achim is a remarkable non-profit organization that works with physicians to bring children who have congenital heart defects to Israel for life-saving surgery that is unavailable in their own nations.
Most of these children, typically from Gaza and other Middle Eastern nations, will go on to lead normal lives after the operation. Without surgery, many of these children would become severely ill or die.
Shevet Achim (“Brothers dwelling together” in Hebrew) is based in Israel and is located near important medical centers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In addition to facilitating transportation from their countries of origin and the medical treatment they receive, the ministry hosts the children and their families at its community home in Jaffa. While most children normally spend a week in the hospital recovering from surgery, outpatient treatment may require up to several months of follow-up medical attention. Families are able to live at the Shevet Achim home during that time.
With a staff of foreign volunteers also living at the home, Shevet Achim is a “community of people from diverse backgrounds that live and work together in the same building.”
Shevet Achim was founded by Jonathan Miles, an American Christian and former journalist.
“Although I loved Israel and my heart was to help and bless the Jews, in 1996 God challenged me, through friends, to take my family to live in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip,” Miles told KNI. “While living in Gaza I saw that many Palestinian children had serious heart conditions but could not get to Israel for the treatment they needed. I knew as followers of Jesus we had to care.”
Accordingly, Miles connected with Israeli surgeon Dr. Ami Cohen, who had just started Save a Child’s Heart. Cohen was working to help non-Israeli children come for heart surgery at the Wolfson Center in Holon. However, he was struggling to reach children in Gaza because of the mistrust of the Palestinian Authority.
“Dr Cohen was a man of faith who would say: ‘Just bring the kids, we’ll find the money later,’” Miles added.
“As foreign Christians our unique contribution is that we can go to places Israelis can’t go, like Gaza and Iraq. We can meet people, find children and get things rolling,” Miles explained. “ Our small but essential role is to get the children into the hands of Israeli doctors who very much want to help.
The trickle of children became a stream, the Shevet Achim website explains: To date, some 1,000 Palestinian children have been treated at the Wolfson center.
Since the end of the Gulf War in 2003, the organization was able to reach Iraq and open the door to bring children from there for surgery. Miles traveled to Iraq to determine the need there for treatment of children with congenital heart defects.
He described finding a 2-day-old baby who needed emergency surgery to save her life — and explaining to her family and physicians that Israeli doctors would be willing to help.
“It was an awesome thing then to watch an Iraqi cardiologist, who was a relative of Saddam Hussein’s, get on the telephone with Israeli cardiologist Akiva Tamir to discuss how to prepare the baby for travel,” Miles said.
The Israeli embassy in Jordan arranged travel documents and the transfer of this baby girl to the Holon center. (The full story can be seen here.)
Now approximately 40 children a year are brought out of Iraq for treatment at hospitals in Israel.
“As believers we have a unique opportunity not only to help the children in need, but also to help Israel love their neighbors — and their enemies,” Miles said.
The cost for each child is $8,000 and includes transportation, hospitalization, housing, food and care. The organization runs on donations. Volunteers are also needed to work and live at the community home with the families.
As people of such diverse backgrounds engage in this ministry together they learn to love their neighbors as themselves.
“Grace, beautiful to the soul and efficacious in reality, has a tendency to become old and encrusted,” the Shevet Achim website says. “Therefore, at the heart of the interaction between Muslims, Jews, and Christians, our desire is not to enlist people in our brand of religion but to experience a breakthrough of this truth ourselves.
“Only then does it become contagious. Grace received becomes grace given. Love received becomes love given. Old cycles are broken, and kingdom comes.”
“Behold, how good and how pleasant
For brothers to dwell together in unity.
Like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
Like the dews of Hermon,
Running down the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord commanded the blessing
Note: Shevet Achim is seeking the Lord for a full-time office coordinator that speaks Hebrew, Arabic and English. Write to [email protected] if you are interested.