Israel is an exciting and exotic place to visit, with ancient biblical sites, beautiful scenery, luxurious hotels, and colorful cuisine. So why would a small group of American Christians take time out of their busy lives, pay their airfare and hotel, and fly to Israel to wash dishes, scrub floors, clean windows, service air conditioners, and labor diligently for two weeks in March without pay?
That was the question Israelis asked repeatedly of the small group of young professionals and retirees from across the United States who made up the 2012 Friends of Israel Hesed Project team. In partnership with Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Israel, Hesed members worked alongside Israelis to support the men and women who provide medical care to more than 700,000 people in southern Israel.
This area is often the target of Arab rocket attacks, yet the Jewish hospital provides advanced medical assistance to Arabs and Israelis alike. During Hesed’s stay, a Palestinian boy from Gaza, who was seriously burned while allegedly trying to launch a rocket, was treated at Kaplan’s new Children’s Medical Center.
Hesed participants were often asked, “Who are you?” “Where do you come from?” and “What are you doing?” But the number one question was “Why?”
The quest to understand why Christians would leave the comforts of home in America to work for free doing manual labor in Israel even led The Jerusalem Post to print an article in several editions highlighting The Friends of Israel’s Hesed Project.
Why did they go? Because, as Christians, they believe God’s Word. God has a plan to bless Israel and fulfill all His promises to His Chosen People because He loves them. The blessings of a Christian’s personal relationship with God come through the Jewish people. Jewish men penned the Scriptures, even the New Testament; and Jesus the Messiah (Yeshua Hamashiach, in Hebrew) is Jewish. In His Holy Scriptures, God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel (Gen. 12:3). Hesed was there to be a blessing to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At the hospital and across the region, Israelis welcomed the team with appreciation and open arms. This openness resulted in visits to an Israel Defense Forces training base and the city of Ariel in biblical Samaria (called the West Bank by the news media).
The hospital honored the participants by planting an olive tree on the hospital grounds for each one. Friendships were formed and hearts were touched. The group’s hard work superseded language barriers and prompted hugs, smiles, kisses, and hearty thanks from almost everyone who knew what these Americans were doing.
The Bible records several accounts of God using Gentiles in mighty ways through seemingly insignificant expressions of kindness (hesed, in Hebrew) toward the Jewish people. Hegai, King Ahasuerus’s custodian of the women, showed hesed to the Jewish maiden Esther by providing her with additional beauty treatments, maidservants, and luxury accommodations (Est. 2:9). He also advised and prepared her to meet the king (v. 15). The result: Esther became the queen and was used by the Lord to save the Jewish people from extinction. God used Hegai the Gentile and his simple acts of hesed to position Esther to save the Israelites.
Sometimes God magnificently uses what people call irrelevant in ways that are beyond our imagination. Are you willing to trust God to use you and your simple acts of hesed toward the Jewish people? If so, pray about becoming a part of the next Hesed Project, scheduled to leave for Israel on February 22, 2013. For more information, go to www.foi.org/hesed.