Today, more than ever, we need to spread kindness and let people know that we care for them.
At The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, we try to share God’s love and kindness throughout the year, but we take an extra special approach at Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is an eight-day festival during which Jewish people around the world celebrate and commemorate the victory over the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes lV, who desecrated the Second Temple between 167 and 164 BC. He forced the Jewish people to commit sacrilege in Jerusalem and around Israel by sacrificing pigs and pouring the swine broth on their altars. After Mattathias and Judah Maccabee led the resistance against Antiochus’s oppression and ultimately won an unlikely victory over his army, they had to rebuild and rededicate their sacred altars. Today Jewish people remember that, according to the Talmud, their ancestors witnessed a miracle when they found that they had only enough olive oil for the Temple to last one day but, to their surprise, it lasted for a total of eight days (the exact time needed to consecrate more oil)!
As the season of Hanukkah nears, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s workers and many volunteers around the world get together; collect Israeli goods such as fruit, chocolate, nuts, jam, tea, lotion, halva, honey, and hummus; and pack them into a Hanukkah basket or box. Then, during Hanukkah, we give them to Jewish families, friends, and agencies.
My wife, Irene, and I began delivering these baskets to the Jewish community in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 2016, and we are now getting ready for Hanukkah 2022.
In 2021 we had the privilege of handing out 40 Hanukkah baskets with several of our friends. Nearly everyone that received a basket was overwhelmed by the kindness of The Friends of Israel and their supporters. Many of the Jewish people expressed feeling so blessed to have such good friends in their lives and considered the baskets to be wonderful treasures. They were touched by the fact that Christians demonstrated such love for them, as many Jewish people haven’t been shown kindness by those who call themselves Christians.
One Jewish man said his staff always looked forward to this time of year because they knew that we would be coming with a Hanukkah basket, and they were thankful for us being such a blessing.
As she received her basket, she said she would remember Hanukkah a little differently this year because she saw that “there are still kind people in this world.”
A Jewish woman at the library who received a basket said, “May the God of Israel bless you for making our Hanukkah so much brighter!” She immediately opened up the basket and enjoyed the food inside.
Another Jewish woman at the Rady Jewish Community Centre shared how surprised she was to get a Hanukkah basket. She had seen us delivering them to others in the building and was hoping she would get one too. As she received her basket, she said she would remember Hanukkah a little differently this year because she saw that “there are still kind people in this world.”
A Jewish doctor in Winnipeg hugged Irene and me when she received a basket and thanked us both for remembering and blessing her.
One Jewish family we visited invited us into their home for tea and biscuits, and we enjoyed a wonderful visit for over an hour and a half. During our conversation we learned that the man had been an IDF veteran soldier in Israel and was a prisoner of war in Egypt during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Each basket is an open door into sharing the love of the Messiah in the Jewish community.
We have many more stories of wonderful blessings that we could share that resulted from giving Hanukkah baskets. We have taken Hanukkah baskets to synagogues, other Jewish agencies, kosher restaurants and bakeries, teachers, doctors, security officers, politicians, and car dealers. Each one of them is an open door into sharing the love of the Messiah in the Jewish community.
I thank God for all the people who have supported and helped us in sharing Hanukkah baskets with our Jewish friends. This act allows us to build bridges of friendship and, with kindness, show these wonderful people the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that we stand with the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.
Hanukkah Sameach—Happy Hanukkah!