Warming Bodies, Warming Hearts
January 7, 2015
This past week in Israel, news reports on Iran, ISIS, and even the upcoming Knesset elections were put on hold. Instead, the impending snowstorms in Jerusalem and other high-altitude locations in Israel have been at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I was listening to the radio with my husband, and as one news report after the next spoke about the dangers of snow in Jerusalem, my husband broke our silence. “Israelis aren’t slowed down by many things. We’re not scared away by terror, war, or threats. But bring us snow, and it will shut this country down.”
He’s right. It does seem a bit comical. But snow in Jerusalem is far from a joke.
Although the ancient stone buildings and streets of the Holy City look magnificent and magical covered in white, the dangers far outweigh the beauty. Simply put, neither the city of Jerusalem nor its people are prepared for snow.
A year ago I was in Ukraine, where I am often, in Donetsk and Lugansk. I was there in the summer when Jews fled their homes. I saw fear and despair in the eyes of the refugees. They didn’t know if they would return to their homes. They left without coats, without anything. They were literally refugees. This was the first time since World War II that Jews fled their homes with nowhere to go. During the year, The Fellowship took care of them. We opened camps for the Jews in Zhytomir and other places. During the year, we fed and provided them with medicines.
Its winding, hilly, steep streets remind me of mountainous roads in Colorado, but unlike Colorado, Jerusalem is lacking the many salt trucks and snow plows needed to clear slippery roads. After even a few inches of snow, the roads in and around Jerusalem become dangerous. During the Jerusalem snowstorm of December 2013, all roads leading in and out of the city were closed off for days. Motorists were stranded in the middle of snowed-in mountain roads, and numerous rescue operations had to be performed. Mayor Nir Barkat declared it a natural disaster. In the past 35 years, no war or terror has succeeded in laying siege to the city of Jerusalem the way that snowstorm did.
Yet although the roads are remarkably dangerous, they are not nearly the biggest danger of all. The greatest threat during winter weather emergencies is for the elderly who are left stranded, often alone, in their apartments.
This past week, in anticipation for the big snow fall, Mayor Barkat directed all of the residents of Jerusalem to make sure that their heating systems work and to stock up on food and water in case they can’t leave their homes for several days. This is great advice, but what about the thousands of poor, immigrant elderly in Jerusalem who can barely afford to buy enough food for a day, let alone an entire week? What will happen to the thousands of elderly who know that if they turn on their heat during the storm they won’t have money for food for the rest of the month?
Many of these needy elderly made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) alone, bringing only the clothing on their backs. They are too old to learn Hebrew, start a new career, and create a savings account, so they try to survive on a government stipend of less than $500 a month. They rent the cheapest apartments, which are often on the top floors of old buildings with broken windows and no insulation. On a monthly basis, they must choose between buying medicine, food, and paying rent.
And the winter months are the hardest. According to a recent poll that The Fellowship conducted, 25 percent of elderly in Israel give up much-needed food and other basic necessities in order to heat their homes. They only take a warm shower once a week. One in five elderly don’t even have heating in their homes at all.
That is why as soon as we learned about the upcoming snowstorms in Jerusalem, The Fellowship created an action plan. We’ve identified the most vulnerable elderly, and during the storms we will bring them heat, blankets, and anything else they need. As we learned from last year’s snowstorm, when thousands of elderly in Jerusalem wouldn’t have had food or heat for days if The Fellowship didn’t bring it directly to them, the most vulnerable elderly are relying on us to respond. They simply have nowhere else to turn to for help.
So as the people of Israel anxiously prepare for the snowstorms, I encourage you to help The Fellowship stock our warehouse in Jerusalem with winter heating aid for poor elderly. I’m asking you to start the year off in a beautiful way by joining our winter heating project and blessing the neediest elderly in Israel. Volunteers will be delivering this aid on your behalf and will be reminding the people of Israel that they’re not alone, that millions of Christians and Jews around the world stand with them, always.
With this powerful message of brotherhood, solidarity, and love that you send, it won’t only be their bodies you are warming; it will be their hearts as well!
With blessings for shalom,