By Katy Sorsher Smith
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting the southern city of Ashdod, which suffered tremendously from rocket fire from Gaza. My mission was photographing an event helping victims of war in the city organized with the help of istandwithisrael.
In fact, it was Pastor Israel from a congregation in the city, who contacted us with the request for help during Operation Protective Edge.
In the city, being attacked at least four or five times a day by rockets, life as we know it virtually came to a halt. Children could not go to daycare or camps. People could not go to work – some because many businesses were simply closed and some because they had to stay home with the children. A simple task of going to a supermarket to buy food or taking the children to play in the park meant risking your life.
Pastor Israel said there were many families with multiple children, single mothers, the elderly, Holocaust survivors and poor who were stuck in shelters for days at a time and needed our help
We wrote an urgent appeal and were amazed at the response we received and the love that was flowing our way from our supporters – in kind words, encouragement, assurance of prayers, and also in gifts.
Within a couple of days, we were able to raise money to help a lot of people.
It was in the middle of a five-hour ceasefire that I came to Ashdod to witness and photograph the first event of giving out food vouchers to families in need from the means we raised through our War Victims Fund.
The little center, which is also used as a distribution center for clothing and supplies to the poor, was packed with mothers, fathers, and many children.
Looking around and taking pictures, the pressure on all of these people was obvious. All the children and most of the adults had dark circles around their eyes from nights of waking up from Red Alert sirens. Nevertheless, everyone was smiling, happy at the opportunity for some time of sanity and normality in the midst of a war.
In conversation with several of them, I found out this was the first time in a long time they could leave their homes – especially with the children. However, they did not complain. On the contrary, I was struck and blessed by the fact that they were thankful to have this time to get to know their neighbors, pray for them, witness God’s miracles, and minister to those who don’t know Yeshua. I was driven to tears more than once as I was listening to their accounts.
In all that day, 11 families (there were those who could not make it on short notice) – some with as many as five children – received money for food. They were so appreciative, and expressed gratitude beyond measure to all those who made this possible.
As I drove back to the Tel Aviv area, I was praising God that even though I came to help and encourage these families, I was the one feeling encouraged and uplifted by those who were suffering.
A week later we were invited to an event in Kiryat Gat – another city in the 40-kilometer radius from Gaza, which has been under heavy rocket fire.
Eighty-five gift cards were to be distributed there – mostly to the elderly and holocaust survivors, but also to others in need.
As our videographer and I arrived to the city and parked our car, we were greeted by a Red Alert siren. This was followed by the loud boom of a rocket being shot down by the Iron Dome System nearby. Then, we looked up and saw the little cloud that was left as a single proof of the attack.
Because we were clearly still in the midst of war, the event, attended among others by the Interim Mayor of Kiryat Gat, could not be done in a nice big auditorium. Instead, it took place in stages (about 30 people at a time or so) in a tiny bomb shelter in the building.
And just like in Ashdod the week before, I was driven to tears, feeling blessed by those we came to bless.
Each person who came to receive the help they so desperately needed, arrived with a bag of goodies for the soldiers on the front lines in Gaza. Some of these people are unable to afford food or life-saving medications for themselves.
Gifts for soldiers in Gaza brought by those who came to receive help
One by one they came, opening their bags and taking out things they brought as an expression of love towards those who have been protecting us – socks, underwear, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, wet wipes, cookies, treats… as I saw the boxes that were empty begin to fill up, I was moved beyond measure.
A third event of distributing food vouchers took place last week at the Ashdod congregation.
Another event is planned for next week.
In addition, we were able to help a congregation in Nahariya (in the north of Israel) as they assembled small gift bags for the soldiers there.
We also gave a generous donation to Yeshua Israel Ministries, who went to visit soldiers near the Gaza border and bless them, as well as citizens of the area.
It is impossible to relate to you how grateful we are to you for allowing us to take part in helping victims of war and IDF soldiers during this operation.
THANK YOU for all you have been doing for us here in Israel. THANK YOU for your love. THANK YOU for standing with Israel.