Adventists in Israel Work With Jews and Muslims to Aid Refugees
BY RICHARD ELOFER, President of Israel Field
uring the recent escalation of violence between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Adventist Church in Israel worked with others in the region to help those in need.
|WAITING IT OUT: Refugees in Israel—Christians, Muslims, and Jews find safety and shelter at the Adventist Study Centre in east Jerusalem. [Courtesy of Israel Field]
About 4,000 missiles fell on Israel during the conflict. Many houses and other civilian sites were hit and either destroyed or damaged. According to official government statistics, 163 Israelis were killed, including 44 civilians—both Jews and Arabs—and some 300,000 were displaced. These refugees left their homes in northern Israel and moved to the south, filling hotels, schools, and other public buildings. The Israel Field leadership responded to the emergency and opened their buildings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ashkelon for the numerous refugees who had nowhere to go.
Successive groups of refugees, a total of 80 people, were welcomed to the Jerusalem Adventist Study Centre. Whether the refugees were Adventists, other Christians, Jews, or Muslims was not relevant. All the Israelis who came found that those who worked at the center were ready to help them. A group of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, led by a man named Marwan, occasionally came to the center to check that everything was OK and that the refugees had everything they needed. One day there were so many refugees that the drainage from the kitchen could not handle all the cooking activities and had become blocked. Marwan was called, and when he saw that water had backed up, flooding a storage shed and pouring into the street, he recruited a team of workers and labored for two days and nights to fix the problem.
Refugees from Haifa, Nahariah, and other towns in northern Israel also began to arrive at the center. It became apparent that the rocket attacks were going to continue, and some of their homes in the north had already received a direct hit or near miss. Some people who were invalids or elderly had been unable to reach secure rooms quickly enough to avoid becoming casualties.
Doron and Antoneta Grigoroiu, the elder of Haifa Adventist congregation and his wife, welcomed the newcomers and settled them into their temporary home. One man walked in carrying a birdcage containing his pet budgerigars. A woman followed with her small dog. The pets were precious to these people, and they determined that they couldn’t leave them behind. One by one they came through the door¯an elderly woman about 90 years old using a walking frame and accompanied by her caregiver, and then a young family with a small child. Many smiled nervously, unsure of what they were coming to. They knew only that they were safe from the bombs.
“Our coming here was a miracle,” said Nadia Leibovich, who stayed at the center with her husband, Avram. They had come from Nahariah. “We are old people; my husband has been ill for a long time. Doron Grigoroiu put himself in danger, driving his car to come and rescue us to this safe place. We feel like [we’re] in a four-star hotel after all the time spent in the bunker in precarious conditions, with the crazy sound of the explosions outside. We can’t find words to express our gratitude.”
Among the refugees were those with special skills in cooking and caregiving. Some asked, “Where did all the food come from to feed so many so well?” The reply was, “Not a problem, it comes!”
|DAMAGE AND DESTRUCTION: Many homes and other buildings were destroyed in northern Israel. [Courtesy of Israel Field]
On the first Friday evening, the group celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat, welcoming the Sabbath to their refugee camp. It was an emotional yet joyous evening. The candles were lit, and after sharing the traditional bread and wine (nonalcoholic, of course), they sang the traditional Hebrew Sabbath songs, including the words, “He brings peace to us and to all Israel,” and they all said, “Amen.”
Maria and Malvina from Haifa were another couple who also sought refuge at the center. They wrote in a letter to the Israel Field, “We found that the Adventists are helping people that are in need of a refuge. They didn’t ask us about our religion or nationality. In fact, I was surprised to find all this variety of people under the same roof: Christians and Jews, Israelis and foreigners. Thank you for the normality you offered to us. You made us not to feel the terrible effect of the war. . . . Every Sabbath one of [the pastors] was with us and made all of us feel the fragrance of a special time--a festivity and a prayer time. Every time we felt discouraged or in need . . . we found refuge, quietness for our souls, and support in prayer and in acts.”
After a couple of weeks, some of the refugees decided to return home, even though there was still danger. But others came and took their places.
The residents of Jerusalem are still working together to help the people. Some have started a new nonprofit organization called AlHaya Besalam, which means “Life in Peace,” an expression taken from the Arabic translation of Proverbs 3:1, 2. The Adventist church members are answering the call to be makers of peace.
About 1,000 Seventh-day Adventists worship in 29 congregations in Israel. Six pastors are working to share the good news of Jesus with everyone in their regions. And during the last 10 years, more than 700 people have been baptized in the Jordan River.
*Note: For a report on the Adventist church in Lebanon click here
Church Representative Adds Adventist Voice to Global Concerns
More than 2,500 representatives of nongovernment organizations gathered September 6 at the United Nations (UN) in New York to consider best practices to develop better partnerships for security and development. Under the banner theme of “Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development,” the UN-sponsored conference brought together leaders of civil society and government to find practical methods to make the world a safer and more humane place.
UN General Assembly president Jan Eliasson told the conference participants, that “working together, creating international structures, creating strong and effective international cooperation, strengthening the United Nations, is a good thing for the world.”
Seventh-day Adventists regularly attend such conferences and express continuing concern for the deplorable living standards and threats of violence facing people in many parts of the world.
“Adventists are committed to social action, recognizing that our interest is in the whole being of what makes us human—mental, physical, social, and spiritual,” says Jonathan Gallagher, Adventist church representative to the UN and participant at the conference.
The three-day conference concluded with definite plans of action that seek to make talk a reality, and to make a practical contribution to the Millennium Development Goals.
—General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department/AR.
Former Inter-American Division President Dies
|Bender L. Archbold [Courtesy of Inter-American Division]
Bender L. Archbold, former president of the Inter-American Division from 1970-1980, passed away on August 6. He was 98.
Archbold began his service to the Adventist Church as a colporteur, and later moved into positions as teacher, dean of men, department director, conference president, college president, executive secretary of the IAD, and finally president. Known as “Mr. Evangelism,” he became the first Inter-American to be president of the region.
Archbold is survived by his wife, Frances, two daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.