Tami Bar Sheshet, chairperson of the Organization of Welfare Managers in the Local Authorities in Israel, says she speaks for a broad range of Israelis when she praises The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) for their extraordinary response during the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus crisis.
“Because of The Fellowship’s assistance and flexibility, in both ordinary and extraordinary times, we are able to reach and assist the elderly who are locked inside their homes. We help them with food, as well as alleviating their loneliness with phone calls from The Fellowship's volunteers,” she said. “Thanks to The Fellowship, we can do things we never dreamed of.”
For more than 36 years, The Fellowship has been on the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance to Israel. From securing Israel’s border towns, to assisting vulnerable elderly and Holocaust survivors, to helping IDF soldiers, The Fellowship’s work touches all aspects of Israeli life.
When the coronavirus crisis sent Israeli society reeling, The Fellowship sprang into action. Through its extensive and well-established network of staff and volunteers, as well as its well-established relationships with Israeli government agencies and other NGOs the Fellowship was uniquely positioned to offer help where it is most needed. This was especially important at a time when so many funding agencies around the world who support Israel had to be focused on their local needs during this crisis
“What sets the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews apart,” says its Director-General, Gad Ben-Ari, “is the ability to act quickly and flexibly with a minimum of bureaucracy. Currently, we’re all in a state of crisis management, and the needs are constantly changing, but The Fellowship is able to provide solutions to new needs as well.”
Alon Davidi, mayor of Sderot, offers thanks to The Fellowship for providing these solutions to his people: “We are the city that leads in helping the elderly,” says Davidi. “The Fellowship helps us achieve this goal, whether it’s providing food, medicine, suitable equipment for winter heating or summer cooling, activities to alleviate loneliness, and more.” The mayor says he is especially grateful that The Fellowship was able to continue this much-needed work during the coronavirus crisis—a time when aid from other sources was no longer available.
Israel’s fighting men and women of the IDF are likewise singing The Fellowship’s praises. During the coronavirus crisis, when most soldiers have been stationed on their bases for an extended period, The Fellowship Vehicle, which regularly visits IDF bases and outposts, has distributed free refreshments, cellphone chargers, and other items that cannot be readily obtained by soldiers. But the aid doesn’t stop there. “I live in central Israel in a rental apartment with two roommates,” says Sienna Rappoport, a US-born and raised lone soldier serving in the IDF. “There’s no one to take care of you when you return home from the base for Shabbat.
“After I told my Service Conditions Officer that we had no washing machine, I found out that The Fellowship helps lone soldiers and we got a washing machine for the apartment. And on Passover we received a special gift – a gift voucher that allowed us to prepare more festively for the holiday.”
Even though the medical crisis in Israel due to the coronavirus seems to be stabilizing for now, the economic and social impact has been devastating and will require months, if not years, of recovery effort, according to most experts.
“What always guides us, and is also important to our donors, is to look for ways to help strengthen Israel's resilience and build bridges between Christians and Jews,” says Gad Ben-Ari. “We have always been there for Israel, and we will always be there for Israel in the future.”