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ICEJ Meets Mounting Needs as Israel Hit by Coronavirus Crisis

Care for Elderly and Holocaust Survivors

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Posted on: 
7 May 2020
ICEJ Meets Mounting Needs as Israel Hit by Coronavirus Crisis

As the coronavirus threat spread around the world in late February, it became clear that the strict measures governments were taking to stop the pandemic would impact the ICEJ’s work in Israel just as the Passover season approached—when we are normally quite busy with numerous holiday assistance projects. Despite having to work from home, our staff in Israel rose to the challenge of meeting the needs of thousands of Israeli families even as the coronavirus crisis brought the nation’s economy to a standstill. Thanks to the faithful and generous support of Christians worldwide, the ICEJ helped even more Jewish families than usual over the Passover season.


This was indeed a most difficult Passover in Israel, as life and work were totally disrupted by the coronavirus health crisis. The elderly were told not to leave their homes for their own safety. Incoming flights were banned, and tourism flatlined. All non-essential businesses were closed. Unemployment in Israel suddenly jumped to over 25 percent. As Passover neared, the social needs across the country only multiplied. In Ashdod alone, over half the families applied to city social workers for Passover assistance.

With dozens of urgent requests for help flooding into our offices from across Israel, our staff rose to the occasion. Because Christians from around the world also responded to the need, we were able to help thousands of Holocaust Survivors, other elderly citizens, new immigrants, needy families, and many others who were desperately in need of assistance this Passover season.

It turned into a special moment when Christians showed their care and concern for our Israeli friends right when they needed us the most! No doubt, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“When the coronavirus began spreading in Israel, it made our work much more difficult, but it did not stop the mandate of the Christian Embassy to comfort the people of Israel. Rather, it provided a unique and timely opportunity to expand our ministry to meet critical needs and help many more families as Passover approached,” said ICEJ AID Director Nicole Yoder.

Here is a sampling of what we were able to accomplish together to make the Passover season brighter for thousands of individuals and families under added distress due to the coronavirus crisis. As you can see, we provided timely aid to more people at Passover than ever before, including Holocaust Survivors, other elderly Israelis, and new immigrants and children—while also helping emergency relief teams and community workers in need of special medical equipment remain on the job.


ICEJ team members at our Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors were designated the primary caregivers for the 70 residents confined to their apartments due to the coronavirus crisis. This included delivering meals, providing medical checkups, doing handiwork around their homes, and paying daily visits to break their sense of isolation. The Christian volunteers under the direction of veteran ICEJ staffers Yudit and Will Setz also helped pack and deliver meals to hundreds of other Holocaust Survivors and senior citizens all around Haifa. 

In Jerusalem, some 12 members of the ICEJ staff were permitted to leave their homes to assist the elderly and other vulnerable people required to stay in their apartments. Many volunteered with Hineni—a Christian-supported Jerusalem soup kitchen—where they helped pack and deliver some 2,000 hot meals to elderly residents of the city over several weeks, as well as 650 Passover food and gift packages.

The ICEJ Homecare team also cared for some elderly and disabled Russian Jewish immigrants, buying them groceries and medicines, delivering Passover packets, and much more.


The ICEJ began its annual Passover holiday distributions in early March by delivering Pesach packages for dozens of needy families in Netanya. The gift baskets included food vouchers for the holiday season, along with kitchenware, pans, and towels. This was a normal activity for ICEJ AID at this time of year, but soon the Passover needs were multiplying, and nothing remained normal.

Despite the stay-at-home orders, the ICEJ also funded and helped with the distribution of Passover gift boxes, including food and hygienic products, as well as daily meals to over 400 elderly and needy Soviet Jewish immigrants—including many Holocaust Survivors, who live in the Jerusalem suburbs of Pisgat Ze’ev and Ma’ale Adumim.

Meantime, we normally sponsor community Passover seders for hundreds of newly-arrived Jewish immigrants. However, since large gatherings were not allowed, the ICEJ provided holiday assistance to more individual immigrant families this year. This included 269 Ethiopian newcomers who were celebrating their first Passover in the Land of Israel. We also assisted these families with extra absorption assistance while they were in a mandated two-week quarantine upon entering the country.

Elsewhere, we worked with the Jewish Agency to assist 50 other newly-arrived families from other countries who had made the trip to Israel despite the coronavirus threat and went straight into quarantine. This extra absorption aid included vouchers to buy food and other basics as they start a new life in Israel under difficult circumstances.
Also, ICEJ funds made it possible for the Jewish Agency to run holiday day camps for children of new immigrant families in quarantine. This project included providing games, crafts, and toys for the kids to play at home or in small supervised groups.

Finally, the ICEJ furnished games, art supplies, and help with online learning for 95 at-risk youths in a special children’s home during the Passover season.


For families living in southern Israel under the constant threat of rockets from Gaza, life became even harder due to the threat of COVID-19. The ICEJ provided local medical and emergency teams there with sterile gloves, filtration masks, protective suits, disinfectants, and other medical gear to allow them to continue making home visits to treat and care for children traumatized by years of rocket fire. They also arranged food and medicine to those in isolation or unable to shop, while also working with Magen David Adom to administer blood tests for coronavirus.

Meantime, first responders in the Gaza border area repurposed the special ATV firefighting equipment recently donated by the ICEJ to clean and sanitize public areas from the virus, including playgrounds, schools, and parks.


As unemployment rose due to the coronavirus lockdowns, the ICEJ reached out to other communities in need all across Israel.

The ICEJ responded to urgent requests for help on behalf of dozens of Bnei Menashe, Chinese, and Hispanic Jewish families who arrived in Israel within the past year or so and were struggling due to job layoffs and other economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. We were able to provide them with grants and food vouchers to assist the newly unemployed and those in dire need before the Passover holiday.

The ICEJ also helped sponsor a brand-new emergency hotline for families with disabled and autistic children, which proved timely and effective—especially as anxiety among children and domestic violence began rising across Israel, as elsewhere. With guidance and training from professionals, phone counselors began taking 50–100 calls per day, in both Hebrew and Arabic, to deal with cases of fear and emotional trauma associated with the coronavirus among special-needs children.

Many in Israel’s Arab and Bedouin communities were late in learning about the dangers posed by COVID-19, and when public schools were suddenly closed and many breadwinners in these communities were suspended from their jobs, many families were greatly impacted. In response, the ICEJ provided 100 Arab and Bedouin families with hygiene supplies and culturally sensitive explanatory materials on how to protect your person and home against the virus, how to practice social distancing, and other helpful information.

Lastly, Israel’s Christian Arab community also has been impacted by the coronavirus threat, including many workers who have lost their jobs. In the mixed Christian/Muslim town of Eilaboun, in the Galilee, the ICEJ donated computers to 36 families so that their children could access distance learning. Other families with small children also received games and toys for the little ones to relieve stress in the home during the long school closures.


We are most grateful that Christians around the globe responded so quickly and generously over recent weeks, enabling the ICEJ to meet more needs than ever over the Passover season.

But the coronavirus health crisis is not over, and the needs created by this pandemic will continue to mount—both in Israel and in many other nations. We are thankful that so many Christians are so dedicated to helping Israel, even though they have urgent needs in their own families, communities, and nations. May the Lord richly bless you as you continue to comfort Israel in her time of need.


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