Power of Christian friends

Norman Feingold, 90 From Manchester to Netanya, 2008.

Norman Feingold (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Norman Feingold
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Norman Feingold founded Christian Friends of Magen David Adom nine years ago, shortly before he made aliya with his wife Elaine in 2008. He was inspired by the need to harness the love he saw directed at Israel by Evangelical Christians outside.
“I’ve been a volunteer all my life,” says the feisty 90-year-old, who still goes to his Tel Aviv office three times a week to check that all is running smoothly. “I estimate that over the years I’ve raised five or six hundred million shekels for Israel,” he adds with some justifiable pride.
A retired Manchester businessman, he has been able to make connections all over the world to raise funds for his pet causes.
Born in Manchester in 1925, he served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
“I was an officer by the age of 17,” he says.
He traveled the world, and even as an inexperienced teenager he had stirrings of compassion for the imperfections he witnessed, which made him want to help his fellow man.
“But after the war the revelations of the Holocaust had an impact on me,” he says.
“I realized that before putting the world to rights, I had to dedicate myself to helping my fellow Jews.”
As soon as the war was over, he went back to Manchester to open a retail business there and became a life-long Zionist – although settling here was not yet an option.
“My first wife was South African; she had enough of living in a trouble spot and wanted to stay in England,” he says. But he became a fervent supporter of Israel in those early days of the state.
“Although the revelations of the Holocaust played their part, it wasn’t just that,” he says.
“There was also the excitement we all felt of the Jews having territorial rights, and the creation of a new land.”
In the course of his fund-raising work for Israel he met the country’s first and second prime ministers, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. Feingold says they both encouraged him that he was doing a good job and should keep going. Around this time he then created an organization called Achdut to help raise money for the Jewish National Fund.
Fast forward 60 years and Feingold finds himself and Elaine comfortably settled in Netanya, in an apartment overlooking the sea. As a life president of Magen David Adom with decades of volunteering behind him, he now concentrates his efforts on the organization he thought up and founded, Christian Friends of MDA – a fund-raising group for the Israeli emergency ambulance services – which has been going strong since 2006.
“I saw a great need and a great opportunity,” he says. “We are vilified and abused all over the world – so why not harness the great love that our Evangelical Christian friends have for us to create something positive?” The activities of Christian Friends of MDA are especially heartwarming, given the sort of bad press that Israel usually gets abroad – and their ingenuity is remarkable.
For example, to raise money for the cause that is very close to their hearts they go on sponsored walks, and in July this year one supporter in Liverpool completed a rockand- roll half-marathon on behalf of MDA.
Recently in Kiryat Shmona a forward emergency room was renovated by a large donation from England and an ambulance was donated in Karmiel.
“You are always in our thoughts and hearts,” said UK president of CFMDA Rev.
Mark Madely when making the presentation.
Feingold points out that MDA is completely apolitical, with no discrimination of race or religion and is a life-saving cause that any human being can identify with. Since he founded the organization there are Christian Friends in places like Singapore, the Philippines and Nigeria.
“Not only do our supporters raise large sums of money and contribute ambulances and other equipment, but they also act as spokesmen on behalf of Israel,” he says.
He is proud of the original thinking that went into creating Christian Friends of MDA.
“It’s more essential than we realize,” he says. “The Jewish Diaspora is shrinking and, unfortunately, there is a slipping away of Jewish zeal for the State of Israel.”
The Christian friends are involved in many aspects of supporting Israel and not just raising money.
“They come and visit as tourists and donate blood,” he points out.
The organization has even sent representatives to Indonesia, a Muslim country, and helped train them to start an ambulance service.
“We didn’t give the ambulances, but important know-how and techniques came from us,” he says.
As a volunteer whose work spans many decades, Feingold still finds what he does as rewarding as when he first ventured into voluntary work as a young man.
“There’s always a feeling of satisfaction for a job you feel is well done,” he says.
“We live in a community called ‘the world,’” says Feingold, “and we need support and appreciation from other people.
For the Christian fundamentalists we are fulfilling God’s word. For whatever reason, we are lucky to have them as friends and supporters.”