‘Twas the night before the Passover humanitarian aid distribution day, a decade ago, when I found myself in a predicament: we had not had sufficient manpower to prepare nearly enough food baskets for the number of families that were coming the next day! We had packed 160, and we needed 120 more. Our humanitarian aid center contained the items but we had not had enough “hands” to accomplish the task.
So I found myself packing 120 baskets all by myself until midnight while trying to not leave out any item from any basket. Even though it was springtime, I remember sweating profusely. It was a big relief to finish, and I promised myself that this would not happen again.
Every year since then we have continued to diligently reach out to nearby communities at Passover, but we have also learned to work equally hard at mobilizing people to help with the packing. As they come and volunteer, added value is gained. More and more individuals get to experience the pure joy of simply serving. This year both the packing and the distribution reached new heights. We had prepared to give aid to 800 needy families initially, which grew to 890. On the packing end, we had requests from different groups both local and international, to come and partner with us in the packing – almost too many! A good predicament to be in!
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“Clearly you are an epistle of Messiah, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of fl esh, that is, of the heart” (II Corinthians 3:3).
We are epistles – messages written by our Lord over our life time, as testimony of His work in us and through us. Our lives are the message that goes out to others. Others should be able to “read” our lives, as reflecting Yeshua – not because of our abilities but because the Spirit which dwells in us, gives life.
Another message written by our Lord was the Torah. Paul continues in verse 15 to speak of Moses and a veil which lies over the heart of people reading the Torah without perceiving. When the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers, we are changed; the veil over our hearts are removed. We have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to understand; we become His ambassadors. We look through the eyes of the Spirit and see this temporary world in an eternal perspective.
We bring with us, wherever we are sent as His living epistles, that which is written on our hearts as witnesses of the One who dwells in us, Yeshua. – Guy Cohen
The week of Passover has come and gone. We gathered in our homes to celebrate and commemorate God’s victory over our enemies. The Bible commands us to remove all yeast from our homes and lives. For one week we are to live the way our ancestors lived when God released them from the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 12). He brought the people out of Egypt quickly, with no time to prepare or even let the dough and yeast rise. The sacrificial lamb that spared the lives of the firstborn children is symbolic of Yeshua (Jesus) sacrificing Himself for us to be spared in the judgement and to receive eternal life with him.
Here at Shavei Tzion, the weeks before Passover were full of assisting others to prepare for the holiday. It was a blessing to be able to make these people’s holiday a little sweeter and easier.
Netzer Hagalil (Branch of the Galilee), our Nazareth congregation, reached out to local Holocaust survivors, providing them with food baskets for the Passover holiday. Here at Shavei Tzion (Return to Zion) we provided those same baskets to new immigrants as well.
During Passover schools are closed for vacation. Since many parents were still at work regardless of the school holiday, we put together a three-day camp with the help of our music school, Keshet Tslilim (Rainbow of Sounds). The music school, along with volunteers from our youth group, spent three days with 30 children – both from our congregation as well as children of new immigrants in the area. During these days the children participated in a variety of activities: art classes, media, theater, learning about Passover and times of worship.
On the last evening, the children had a talent show which they performed in front of their parents. The parents were so pleased and blessed by the evening and the camp, that they are already asking when the next camp will be held.
Israel is a melting pot of Jews who have immigrated here from all over the world. Each of them brings their own culture, but not all of them are familiar with the Jewish biblical holidays. So we invited around 40 new immigrants and children to a dinner about Passover. Some were immigrants we had assisted over the past week with food baskets and aid for the holiday. Others were regular immigrants that come weekly for various forms of assistance (such as translating documents between Hebrew and Russian, cultural enrichment or just to have someone to talk to).
During the dinner we taught them about Passover and its symbolic connections with the Messiah. They had many questions about Passover and about our faith as believers in Messiah.
As we wrapped up another blessed holiday we were also pleased to reopen our humanitarian supply warehouse, which provides clothing, blankets and other amenities for the needy in our area.
Passover Exodus Compared with Later Return to Israel (“aliya”)
“… the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors” (Jeremiah 16:14-15). The promise of the return of the Israelites to the Land of Israel is being fulfilled in our day. It is such a blessing to both witness this and also be a part of their restoration physically and spiritually.
Many hands – young adults and soldiers from our community, workers from the local municipality welfare office, as well as believing friends from Ireland and Maine (USA) – finished the packing very successfully. In addition to those that physically did the packing, many open hands were extended to this same outreach effort symbolically, spiritually and financially – from Taiwan, Kenya, USA, Japan, Canada and around the world. All these hands were joined together in successfully touching many hundreds of families all over our Krayot Haifa Bay region, and we want to send out a big thanks to you all!
“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For this day is holy to the Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10).
What a joy to come together as one body of messiah to reach our people here in the land with the message of hope and of God’s redemption, at Passover.
Lines and Numbers in Israel
In the early years of humanitarian aid distribution, people from the neighborhood simply came, stood in line and took baskets. However, as some of you who have visited Israel may have noticed, standing in line here is a rather fluid thing. It is viewed culturally as just a suggestion. So, in recent years, many places around the country (such as banks, post offices etc.) have implemented order and fairness by having each person take a number and wait to be called. We also had to deal with this kind of lack of order, and we also have implemented the number system with our orange “ticket” number dispenser.
Counting and Harvest
Now that Passover is finished, we are counting the 50 days leading up to the harvest holy day of Pentecost/ Shavuot. Seeds have been sown, and we are looking forward expectantly toward the harvest to see what God will bring forth in the coming days. – Avi Tekle