There’s an old, but funny, Jewish joke with a lot of variations that goes something like this:
A man in a crowd suddenly collapses. A nearby doctor pushes through the surrounding onlookers and examines the fallen man. Sadly, the doctor looks up at the mass of faces and announces, “I’m sorry to say this man has died.”
A little Jewish bubbe (grandmother) with a thick accent from the old country calls out, “Give him some chicken soup!”
All heads turn to the woman. The doctor, keeping his composure, replies, “Madam, perhaps you didn’t hear me. I said this man has died.”
The grandma says it again, “Give him some chicken soup!”
The doctor, annoyed at this point, stands up and says to the old woman, “Lady, I said this man is dead! He’s gone! He has no pulse! He’s not breathing! Do you really believe that giving him chicken soup will be of any help?”
“Well,” the old woman replies, “it couldn’t hurt !”
I love that joke. The only thing that’s missing when reading it instead of hearing it is the old woman’s accent. When she says the word “hurt,” it would sound more like “hoyt.” Would the chicken soup be of any help? “It couldn’t hoyt !”
One of the questions The Friends of Israel gets regularly from the Christian community is, “How can I help the people of Israel?” They see the bias in the news media. They hear of how Israel’s neighbors continue to hate them without a cause (Psalm 35:19; 69:4). And so they want to help, but they don’t know how. Sure, sending money is helpful. But many want to help in a more direct and tangible way.
As the director of Program Ministries for The Friends of Israel, I have the distinct privilege of overseeing two amazing service opportunities for Christians to help the people of Israel, on location, hands on, and in person.
An acronym for Our Resolve Is Giving Israel Never-ending Support, ORIGINS is a life-changing experience in the land of Israel for Christian young adults ages of 18-28. ORIGINS is more than a tour. It’s a ministry trip where Christian young adults go to Israel to serve the Jewish people by volunteering for two weeks at Kaplan Medical Center in the city of Rehovot. They don’t have to be doctors, nurses, or medical professionals. The ORIGINS team spends their time cleaning windows and floors, painting, washing pots and pans, raking leaves, trimming bushes, clearing and stocking shelves, and doing any other job that the medical center wants them to do. Team members establish lasting friendships, experience first-hand contact with Israelis, explore their biblical roots, and expand their faith and support of Israel.
The Hesed Project
Similar to ORIGINS, The Hesed Project is an exciting volunteer program in Israel for older adults. Participants in The Hesed Project work for two weeks at Kaplan Medical Center doing various types of manual labor comparable to what the ORIGINS teams do. Immediately following The Hesed Project, team members have the option of continuing their Israel experience by joining The Friends of Israel’s Up to Jerusalem tour. The Hesed Project brings to life Psalm 13:5, “I have trusted in Your mercy [Hebrew, Hesed]; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation [Hebrew, Yeshua, the Jewish name of Jesus].”
There are two questions I always get when inquiring Christians ask me about our volunteer trips to Israel.
Older people ask, “Is it safe?”
Young people ask, “How much does it cost?”
Both are legitimate questions. And God can take care of both. But they become somewhat irrelevant when considering the impact our service trips have on the lives of our volunteers. Here are a few examples:
“[This volunteer trip] has impacted my life because I love Israel. I love the Jewish people. And it’s an avenue to be able to show that love and concern and respect for Israel, and be able to just do something tangible. Writing a check is great. But being here, being amongst the Jewish people, has just been such a blessing. As much as we want to bless them, they bless us. And there are no words almost to be able to describe how great it is.”
There are two questions I always get when inquiring Christians ask me about our volunteer trips to Israel. Older people ask, “Is it safe?” Young people ask, “How much does it cost?”
“As a novice FOI volunteer I could not assimilate all of the blessings every day. I was full and overflowing. I was privileged to meet and enjoy the daily company of my teammates. I believe that part of my “high” was being around dedicated, loving believers in Yeshua, their purpose being to share, help, and serve in the love of Jesus. I was honored to be in their company and comforted by the continuous living presence of the Holy Spirit in our group. Daily I think about, miss, and pray for Israel, her people, and the believers that we shared with.”
“[This volunteer trip] has been a thrill to my heart. I’ve been praying for the Jewish people for a long time, and it’s been such a thrill to come to [Israel]. It has given me a better perspective on the Jewish people, and the ministry at Kaplan. It’s forever etched on my heart now. I’m so thankful to the Lord that I could come. I’ll never be the same. I plan to come back. And if someone is considering going on one of FOI’s volunteer trips, I would say absolutely, positively, do whatever you have to do to go. Whatever you have to sacrifice, you will not regret it in any way, shape, or form. It will transform your life. It will change you. And you’ll never be the same again.”
Both ORIGINS and The Hesed Project have been well received by the Kaplan Medical Center staff and workers. Here’s just a sampling of what our Israeli friends have said about our coming to serve them:
“The [Hesed and ORIGINS] people are doing very good work for us. We are so proud of it, and we thank you so much for being with us, for volunteering for Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel. Thank you so much.”
“[Hesed and ORIGINS] are helping the hospital every year. People are coming over with good hearts, with good intentions, with very good will to do good to the hospital and to the Israeli people. And they are working very, very hard to fulfill the mission and to complete the project, any projects that we throw at them. And they are doing an excellent job. I really wish that we will have [Hesed and ORIGINS] going on and on forever.”
“It was very wonderful to meet you and all of your amazing delegation. It was truly the highlight of my day to see all of you in the dining room! It is very comforting to know that our beloved little country has such good friends in the U.S. And of course, I hope you know that you are all a part of our ‘Kaplan Family.’” [Note: This female worker at the hospital was so impressed with our volunteer teams, she submitted an article about us to The Jerusalem Post. She also made this request, “I was wondering if you could send me the email addresses of the wonderful volunteers from this trip. I would very much like to stay in touch with them.”]
“Everyone at the hospital sees that no matter what kind of job the [Hesed or ORIGINS] teams are doing, you do it with smiles on your faces.”
“Your support helps to make us [Israelis] feel strong.”
Not only do our teams get to work with Israelis, but they also experience having Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner with Kaplan staff in their homes. On one occasion, as we discussed a recent military conflict where Israel had to once again defend itself, our hostess said, “I felt so alone.” We then shared with her and the rest of the family how much we love and support Israel because of our love for God and the promises He has made. The hostess began to cry. She said through her tears, “It is so comforting to know that we have such friends like you, especially with all of the world seemingly against us.”
As an expression of their appreciation, Kaplan Medical Center has a designated area on their campus grounds in which they plant trees in honor of our volunteers. They call it “The Friends of Israel Boulevard.”
If these testimonies have whetted your appetite, you can find out more about FOI’s service trips at our website. For ORIGINS, https://www.foi.org/israel-tours/origins-tour/. For The Hesed Project, https://www.foi.org/israel-tours/hesed-project/.
So, if you’re really serious about helping the people of Israel, and you’re asking me if you should pray about going with us on one of our service trips, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say,
“Well, it couldn’t hoyt !”