Many of us scrolled through social media or watched the news in complete shock on Saturday morning, October 7. Something was different as we watched Hamas attack. We were not seeing attacks on military targets; We were seeing attacks inside neighborhoods. Were those families in those cars? Was that a child? Our brains could not comprehend the evil we saw. It was far worse than anyone could have imagined. Innocent families were slaughtered and mutilated. Visions that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
As the day progressed, southern Israeli towns close to the Gaza border such as Sderot, Ashkelon, and Ashdod were mentioned. Some of us here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry remembered an article our executive director, Jim Showers wrote from the November/December 2016 issue of Israel My Glory. With the article was a picture of giant carrots and a man holding them up, smiling proudly. The man is Rafi. And below is the fascinating story of life in southern Israel. We are happy to report that Rafi did survive the massacre. Please continue to pray for him and the families who are suffering unimaginable loss and as always, pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6a).
“This is the most important lesson you will learn today!” Rafi said as the Jeep came to a stop on a dirt road, about half a mile from the fence dividing Gaza from Israel. Rafi climbed out with a hand shovel in tow. “Come, follow me. I will show you the lesson.” To our right was a golden field of wheat. To our left were beautiful, green leafy plants that seemed to stretch to the horizon. Before I knew it, Rafi was on his knees, digging.
What is he going to show us? I wondered. Is it an entrance to a terrorist tunnel from Gaza? He had told us earlier Israelis found several in the area. Rafi heads security for Sdot Negev, “The Fields of the Negev,” a region along the Gaza border made up of 16 agricultural communities that Hamas terrorists target with their missiles and tunnels. Yet there is a waiting list of Israelis who want to buy homes and settle here. This thriving agricultural area has blossomed in the wilderness because of an Israeli invention, drip irrigation. Today the land along the northern Gaza border is teeming with lush crops.
After a few minutes of digging in the dark soil, Rafi stood and held up a bundle of carrots. They were the biggest carrots I had ever seen. This is just another amazing way Israel is leading the world in innovation, I thought. Israel is helping to feed the world through new developments in agriculture.
“This is the lesson I have for you,” Rafi said. “The land on this side of the fence and the land on the other side of the fence is the same land. The difference is that in Israel we use the land for good, and in Gaza they use the land for evil to kill Israelis.” Then he added, “Please tell this to others when you go home!”
“The land on this side of the fence and the land on the other side of the fence is the same land. The difference is that in Israel we use the land for good, and in Gaza they use the land for evil to kill Israelis.”
The prophet Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). On the Gaza side of the fence, men plot evil against Israel and call it good. They divert critical humanitarian resources and use them for terrorism while letting their own people suffer. Rafi told me Israel sends food, medical assistance, and aid to Arab Gaza. What does it receive in return? Gaza sends missiles and burrows tunnels into Israel to murder Jewish people. To make his point, Rafi retrieved part of a terrorist missile from the back of the Jeep to show me. “This missile was launched in Gaza and fell in a school yard,” he said. “Thankfully, it was on a Sabbath when the school is closed. We were able to clean up the damage before the children returned for school on Sunday.”
I was in the area that day to visit the missile shelters The Friends of Israel has placed there through generous donations to our Israel Relief Fund. We work with an Israeli organization, Operation Lifeshield. Rabbi Shmuel Bowman, director of Operation Lifeshield, took Bill Sutter, our former executive director, and me to meet Rafi and visit the shelters we placed.
One was set at a drop-off zone for children at an elementary school that is so close to Gaza the children have only 10 seconds to find a shelter when they hear the sirens. Rafi said this shelter makes such a difference. It is a real comfort in time of need.
Rafi’s lesson is a good one to remember. Israel works to do good with its land, while the terrorists of Gaza work to do evil. There is no question where I stand. With Israel!
(Introduction by Sarah Fern)