Ebenezer: 40 Years of Care for Elderly Believers in Israel
“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly, and revere your God. I am the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:32
In the early-1970s the growing number of aging Israeli believers who needed care prompted believers here and overseas to seek a solution; and in 1976, Ebenezer Home opened its doors in Haifa. On its 40-year anniversary, Kehila News Staff visited Ebenezer’s manager Johnny Khoury, to learn more about this unique ministry.
Holding an MA in Gerontology, Johnny was hired by Ebenezer in 1998, and in 2003 he became its first Israeli manager. Until that time, managers from overseas rotated in and out on short-term assignment, usually for three or four years. “The manager before me was Norwegian, and he did an exemplary job,” Johnny says, but the need for Israeli management was making itself felt; first to interact with local government offices, and second to carry out long-term planning that could only be actualized by someone who was here to stay.
That first year, Johnny noted, was definitely challenging. “We had problems trying to receive visas for our volunteers from the Interior Ministry, but so did other Messianic organizations in those days.” As relations with the government became more cordial, it still “took a few good years” to stabilize the Home’s operations, to the point where eventually the Amuta (non-profit organization) replaced the “foreign company” in the management and running the Home in 2011.
Ebenezer’s manager is justifiably proud of the top ratings the Home is receiving today in inspections by the Health and Social Welfare Ministries. But what makes this senior-citizen facility unique in Israel is its designation for Israeli believers in Yeshua. Johnny related how Ebenezer is highly regarded not only for its quality care to its seniors, but also for its core values as a Messianic institution. He has even been congratulated by managers of other nursing homes for Ebenezer’s good testimony.
Ebenezer is currently home to 29 Jewish and non-Jewish believers from all backgrounds, some of whom have been residents for almost 20 years. They are served by 35 professionals including nurses, social workers and physical therapists, along with kitchen, cleaning and administrative staff. Also assisting are six volunteers on two-year visas. Residents pay a scaled fee according to their income, which is supplemented by private donations.
Grateful to God for this success, Johnny Khoury is focusing on the next stage of development: a growing need to add a Nursing ward. Despite our anticipation of eternal life, “biology is what it is,” he quipped. Many Ebenezer residents are independent octogenarians who are nevertheless becoming frailer with time. Johnny remembers a dramatic struggle four years ago, when a Welfare Ministry inspector suddenly decided that their weakest members should be forcibly relocated, because Ebenezer lacked full nursing services. The crisis erupted right before Passover. It was resolved in the end, but Johnny saw it as a warning from God to start working toward providing these services.
Legally, Ebenezer cannot provide assisted-living care without a license from the Ministry of Health, and there is no Messianic facility in Israel that can receive seniors needing such care. There is one Christian nursing home, which admits only non-believing Holocaust survivors. The government, says Johnny, is granting grace to Ebenezer on this issue for as long as they can, “because they see not only the quality of care we give, but that we are also unique in the country.” Sooner or later, however, they will have to insist on licensing.
Meanwhile the Messianic community here is growing, as is the average life expectancy of Israelis. This means more elderly believers applying to live at Ebenezer, and increasing numbers are asking about nursing care.
Johnny is determined to answer the need so that Seniors in the Body can enjoy fellowship with one another to the very end of their earthly lives. This after all was the founding vision of Ebenezer Home.
What will it take to materialize the vision? He estimates the required investment will run approximately 23 million shekels, to cover not only renovations of the 40-year-old facility but also building a new wing for a nursing ward and an underground “reinforced” wing for war conditions. Although it’s a huge undertaking, this expansion would make Ebenezer eligible for government subsidies earmarked for assisted living. Johnny reports that there are organizations interested in helping, and land available; he has already finalized plans for carrying out the expansion as funding comes in.
The Health and Welfare Ministries are both enthusiastic about Ebenezer’s expansion plans. Thanks to the Home’s sterling reputation built over the years, officials have assured Manager Khoury that the licensing process will go quickly.
As Ebenezer Home moves ahead, they remain firm in their commitment to the aging Messianic Israeli community, confident that God’s provision for the last 40 years will continue for the next 40 years.
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VIP Prayer Tower: A Place of Intercession and Unity
We would like to share the following 2 testimonies to encourage all of you that pray for and support the VIP prayer tower here in Tel Aviv:
Light in the Darkness
“Several years ago, Pastor Avi responded to God’s leading to open a prayer room in Tel Aviv. On the 12th floor of a building called “Light House”, the prayer room looks out over much of the city, and was to be part of preparing the way for a “new thing” God has promised to do in Tel Aviv-Jaffo, which will go out to the nations.
I arrived in the city in 2011 and began using the room to pray. As part of my journey there, I passed the spiritually dark Central Bus Station and continued along Allenby Street until I arrived at the VIP prayer tower building on the corner of Allenby and Ben Yehuda St, a corner which is full of immoral businesses. Over time, a passion developed in my heart to see these places transformed by God’s light.
As I pursued this passion further, the Lord revealed to me that one of the major areas of spiritual collision was the Central Bus station. During a time of seeking God in prayer, I had a vision of the bus station with many open doors, I could see that God was grieved as he looked upon the people saying, “they have been persuaded that evil is good, and so many doors have been opened that shouldn’t have been”.
I asked God if we should go to the doors and pray them shut. He said no. Instead, people need to go there and worship Him, and He would build His throne there and would bring His Kingdom. I asked for confirmation from His word. He gave me Jeremiah 17, and I was amazed to read in verse 19: “Go and stand at the Gate of the people through which the kings of Judah go in and out, stand also at all the gates of Jerusalem”, and then verse 25: “then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of the city”. God provided 4 other intercessors with the same heart to worship at the bus station 10 times!
The Central Bus Station prayer assignment has just been completed, but this is by no means the end of the story. A month before the prayer walk took place, God gathered over 25 local intercessors for a prophetic “round table” event, in which we began to share what God has been showing each of us. We were excited to hear many similarities in the impressions and passions God has given each of us, as well as a desire for a unified “push” in prayer. It seems that this may be just the beginning of a prayer strategy that God has for our city “for such a time as this”.
-Grace, Intercessor and member of Adonai Roi Congregation
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Prayer Connection
“In the last few months, the leadership of ELAV (a youth & young adult ministry from Succat Hallel, 24.7 House of Prayer in Jerusalem) has been sensing the Lord’s heart for the young people of Tel Aviv. There has been a significant history already between Succat Hallel/ELAV & the VIP Prayer Room in Tel Aviv, but we really felt God wanted us to begin investing in the young people who are regularly worshiping & praying there as well as call others in the area to join them.
So, since the beginning of the year, we have been coming once a month with a few young people to fellowship, worship, pray & share some foundational teaching concerning God’s heart & the house of prayer. The gatherings have been small, but the young people from Tel Aviv & the surrounding area have been strengthened in their heart for God, and we’ve really felt the Holy Spirit’s strong encouragement that he is up to something great!”
-John Mark, Leader at Succat Hallel House of Prayer in Jerusalem
This article originally appeared on Dugit, May 14, 2016, and reposted with permission.
Dugit as an evangelistic outreach center located in the heart of Tel Aviv. The Hebrew word “Dugit” means little fishing boat, like the ones used by the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Functioning as a coffee shop and outreach center, Dugit provides a friendly environment where Israelis can hear about Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah and receive teaching. Periodically, Dugit hosts “Dugit Live”, an evening outreach in which believers can share their testimonies with unbelievers through live music and fellowship.
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SURVEY: The Israeli Army – The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Yeshua (PART 3)
The Israeli army is the topic of this third article in our four-part series of surveying Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders in Israel. Our survey results clearly show that the Israeli army is a hot and divided issue. Not only did the responses from both sides differ greatly, but both had objections with how the questions were phrased.
Below is the infographic with the survey questions and the results.
The overwhelming majority (87%) of Messianic Jewish leaders view terrorist attacks against the Israeli soldiers as being rooted in religious extremism, as opposed to social, economical, or political reasons. However, only 47% of Arab Christian leaders shared the same opinion. Some of the comments submitted in the survey by Arab Christian leaders explaining their response included:
“Many of the attacks are [religious extremism] but others are coming from suffering as well”
“Only few of them are related to extremism, most of them are out of depression because of the occupation and out of despair for lost ones and lost lands and jobs”
“Not all attacks are motivated by religion but some are.”
It was a surprise to KNI that more than half of the Arab Christian leaders surveyed could not generally categorize terrorist attacks against IDF soldiers as being rooted in religion (Islam). On one hand, it is generally accepted that terrorist organizations, certainly ISIS, Taliban, and Hamas, are rooted in radical Islam. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that terrorist attacks targeted at IDF soldiers are not rooted in religious (Islamic) extremism. Yet the reality is that many in the Arab sector hold this viewpoint. Just last month, the only Arab Knesset Member of the Labor (Zionist Union) Party, MK Zouheir Bahloul claimed that attacks on soldiers are not terror. He contended that a Palestinian who attacked an IDF soldier in Hebron is “a murderer, not a terrorist”. This statement was a surprise to many in Israel. However, according to the results of KNI’s poll, it can be inferred that this viewpoint is also prevalent among the Israeli Arab Christian community.
The survey question about the Israeli army’s presence in the Palestinian territories was also sharply divided between Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders. Some Messianic Jewish leaders even expressed disdain for the question, saying that KNI should not even compare terrorist attacks against soldiers with the Israeli army’s mere presence in the Palestinian territories. Only 3% of the Messianic Jewish leaders surveyed responded that the IDF’s presence in Palestinian territories is a form of extremism. Conversely, the majority or 58% of the Arab Christian leaders responded “Yes” that the IDF’s presence in Palestinian territories is a form of extremism. Only 16% responded “No” and the remaining 27% of Arab Christians responded “Not sure, it depends and is complicated”. This result was also a surprise to KNI as we were not expecting such as vast difference of opinions. Perhaps it was because the definition of “extremism” (not “religious extremism”) is too general and open for interpretation. For example, one Arab Christian leader responded “This question is vague. What kind of extremism?”
Even though the survey responses were dissimilar, we hope that the results of this survey show to our readers, both in Israel and around the world, the reality of the situation among Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian brothers in faith. There are sharp differences in how each side views the issues. It is interesting, and somewhat astonishing, to note that the Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders surveyed by KNI were statistically identical in speaking out against terrorism yet were nearly polar opposites regarding the two questions related to the Israeli army. Why do you think this is? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.
The next and last question in our four-part survey series on Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian leaders is whether or not Christian Zionism is a form of religious extremism.
NOTE: Survey results were calculated from 37 Messianic Jewish leaders (approx 20% of the total) and 19 Arab Christian Leaders in Israel (approx 20% of the total) who responded to the survey in March 2016.
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Personhood- International L’Chayim Conference 2015
From October 28 to November 4, 2015, approximately 130 people gathered together from around the world for the International L’Chaim Pro-Life Conference. We were challenged by this command to stop the death of the innocent. Through worship, prayer, testimonies and powerful messages, we were empowered to work together to save lives in this changing and challenging world.
One of our speakers was Daniel Becker, author of “Personhood: A Pragmatic Guide to Prolife Victory in the 21st Century and the Return to First Principles in Politics.” His book advances personhood for those who have no voice. The quote on the back of his book gives us hope that our struggle to protect all the personhood of unborn children in the same way we now look upon the abolition of slavery and the end of the Holocaust.”
Personhood is the right of every individual to be recognized as a human being, deserving the basic right to life. The ONLY significant question is WHO is a person. Once defined, there can be no exceptions to the protection of his life. By scientific definition, life is the multiplication or reproduction of cells. By God’s definition, LIFE is created in His image from the moment of conception.
A person, regardless of circumstances, must be protected. The means of conception, even through rape, is not a justifiable reason for one human being to take the life of another human being. A baby who suffers from a defect or genetic abnormality has the same basic right to life as any other person. The Word of God says “You shall not murder.” “It is God who has given life and God who takes life.” (Job1:21)
Once we open the doors to “exceptions”, allowing abortion for various reasons, we start down a slippery slope. Could we then terminate, through euthanasia, the elderly who are weak? What about the newborn handicapped child, in a process called an “after birth abortion”? We must hold on to the Truth of God, without compromise, and bravely protect every life regardless of size, location or circumstances.
This article originally appeared in Life News by Be’ad Chaim, Winter 2016, and reposted with permission.
Sandy is the National Director of Be’ad Chaim (Pro Life), a registered Israeli non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of mothers and unborn children.
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Networking for a Better Future Together in Israel
The Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries, FIRM, is a new player in the field of ministries in Israel, led by Wayne Hilsden, emeritus pastor of King of Kings Ministries in Jerusalem and operated by a young man named Michael Mistretta. They are preparing to host their first annual event called the JERUSALEM ENCOUNTER, taking place from May 31st-June 2nd. The speakers are not the usual Christian Zionist voices, but some new faces from the Evangelical world.
Michael shares, “We have invited three keynote speakers: Francis Chan, Jentezen Franklin and Rich Wilkerson Jr., who each speak and influence hundreds of thousands of people each year through their churches, programs and platforms. They are respected leaders, incredible Bible teachers, and our hope is for them to come and lead us in an encounter with God. At the same time, we desire for the internationals who come to develop relationships, partnerships, and friendships with the local body of believers in the Land.”
Some local speakers will include Mordechai Wiseman, Erez Soref, Wayne Hilsden and Calev Myers. The three international speakers will teach at the evening sessions, while the Israel-based speakers will speak during the day sessions along with relational mixers, leadership panels and ministry booths. Worship teams will all be local, often combinations of worship leaders and teams from different congregations, joining together in collaboration. Ultimately the conference is designed for international guests, who would want more than the traditional experience of a tour, to connect to the local body of believers. The goal being to develop relationships, hear stories and discover ministries in the land doing good work, including those who aren’t as well-known and thus receive less attention and support.
Michael continues, “The purpose is to connect leaders and pastors from the nations with ministries in Israel that are doing effective work and are committed to certain standards of financial transparency, Biblical soundness and operating in a spirit of unity. We have several dozen ministries in the land as FIRM members, who will be represented at the conference. Our heart is to foster relationships and cooperation among international and local ministries, rather than each ministry doing their own thing. FIRM’s desire is to inspire, connect, and equip ministries. We want to transcend ministry lines and brand names. We have a heart for ministries to work together in unity. We want to labor for God’s Kingdom together rather than our own, individual kingdoms.”
As part of their local efforts, Michael shared with Kehila News Israel (KNI) exclusively about the upcoming launch of their new web app, which will be a part of the FIRM website. They have been developing the app for over a year and will introduce it at the conference. The app is a social network of sorts, with features similar to Facebook and LinkedIn, but for Israeli ministries. Featured members will have profiles stating basic information about their ministry, what they do, and how to connect with them directly. Individuals, churches, and businesses from abroad will be able to sign up as FIRM friends to discover, connect with, and support local, believing, Israel ministries.
“We want to be a servant ministry, undergirding and strengthening believers in the Land. We have frontline members, who are actively engaged in ministry endeavors, and ambassador members, who are behind the scenes and support them. We truly believe that we can be better together. We have an application process in place to evaluate ministries who desire be a part of FIRM. This is in order to ensure excellence, effectiveness, transparency, and unity among our members.”
For more information on the Jerusalem Encounter 2016 visit the FIRM website.