JERUSALEM, Israel – The City of Life Congregation is no stranger to terrorism and the lasting impact it can leave on a community. Located less than two miles away from the Gaza border in Sderot, members must run to the nearest bomb shelter when Hamas fires rockets into southern Israel.
The Messianic congregation is working hard to help local Holocaust survivors deal with the psychological trauma that comes with both surviving genocide and living within range of Hamas rockets. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Holocaust survivors and other elderly citizens in Sderot face a new challenge – loneliness.
“It’s very important because of COVID 19 just to be with them and spend time with them because they are very lonely,” Itzhak Rabihiya, a spokesperson for the organization told CBN News.
Volunteers from the congregation are supporting hundreds of these vulnerable members of society by visiting them and providing them medication, aid, house repairs, electrical appliances, and emotional counseling.
“Our first priority is to give them not physical support, but mental support. Our volunteers go to their houses and stay with them for sometimes many, many hours,” Rabihiya said. “They break their loneliness by being with them.”
Much of the physical aid being provided, like diapers, walkers, and groceries, is provided by benefactors abroad.
While the elderly appreciate the help, the congregation says its members have become victims of harassment by people who dislike the fact that they are Jews who believe Jesus is their Messiah. Rabihiya said, “extremist religious Jews” have shown up at their operating center and demonstrated against them.
“They will come and do a demonstration and start cursing,” he explained. “[They’ll] tell them ‘go away, you are doing wrong, you are not Jewish.'”
“They curse and they demonstrate and they scream and normally there is no violence…but they interrupt the community,” Rabihiya continued.
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The harassment is coming from an orthodox anti-missionary organization called Yad L’Achim. Last year, CBN News reported that this same group is responsible for harassing and vandalizing another Messianic congregation in Israel. Eventually, an Israeli court forbade Yad L’Achim from demonstrating against that congregation.
The City of Life told CBN News they approached Sderot’s mayor and called the police multiple times but nothing has been done.
CBN News reached out to the mayor’s office for comment but did not receive a statement by the time of this publishing.
The Messianic community says they “don’t want to escalate” anything with Yad L’Achim, and simply want to serve southern Israel’s elderly population in peace.
“All we want is to continue with our humanitarian and voluntary aid for the benefit of hundreds of Holocaust survivors and impoverished people in the area and to give them warmth, love, compassion, and support during these hard times, without disturbances and threats against us,” said Michael Beener, Congregational leader at the City of Life.
The congregation has been operating since 2006 and they only began facing harassment this past year. They vow to continue serving the most vulnerable in their community and say the majority of Sderot residents have treated them very well.
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