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ICEJ reaching out to needy Palestinian Christians

New initiative for Arab believers

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Posted on: 
23 Mar 2012
ICEJ reaching out to needy Palestinian Christians

There are no public social welfare or unemployment programs in the Palestinian territories. For this reason, the poor and needy are dependent on private support programs from their families and religious communities.

In an effort to assist Christian brothers and sisters in need, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is launching a new initiative in cooperation with local Arab churches and trusted Jewish partners who desire to reach out in peace and goodwill to their neighbours in Bethlehem and other Palestinian towns. The goal is to help provide monthly food allotments for Christian families who do not have sufficient income to cover basic living expenses.

A delegation from ICEJ AID recently visited Arab Christians in Bethlehem and Beit Jallah to better understand their situation. Aisha [*all names changed], who coordinates the project, arranged a meeting with a family which has “fallen through the cracks” on all sides when looking for assistance.

Nisreen and her daughter Ranya welcomed us warmly with a smile, cookies and tea, yet the situation for this little family is desperate. Nisreen, who was born in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, lived for 22 years with her husband in Europe, and their daughter was born there. But after a painful divorce, mother and daughter came back home to be with their extended family.

“In Europe I have nobody, I am alone there. My family lives here”, said Nisreen.

Israel has a policy of confiscating the identity cards of Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem if they live for more than seven consecutive years abroad, a measure which has put Nisreen and her daughter in a difficult spot. They could not return to Jerusalem, but the Palestinian Authority also said they were not eligible to receive an identity document to live in Bethlehem, as they were from Jerusalem.

With no legal status or identity papers, they could not be employed. Both would be glad to work but are repeatedly turned out at job interviews. Moreover, Nisreen is afraid that she will be deported and sent back to Europe if she is held at a checkpoint.

“I would like to work so much, to help people, pray with them and study the Bible”, said Nisreen. “But I feel suffocated here. I can’t work. I can’t go out. It is hard, very hard.”

She has a servant’s heart, but her freedom of movement is restricted due to these complications and she rarely leaves her house except for church events.

Mother and daughter were grateful to be chosen for the new aid project. “This will help us much. It comes at the right time”, Nisreen said thankfully. “We have everything in the house but we need money for food and to pay bills.”

“In spite of my hardship, I feel the hand of the Lord on me. I don’t know how, but God is providing. I sometimes even have money in my purse and I don’t know where it comes from. I know the Lord is with me and He helps me a lot”, Nisreen assured.

When she speaks about her faith in God, her eyes shine.

“I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I thank God for everything! Through the church, I have become stronger in my faith. I experience the Lord more and I understand Him more.”

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”, she declared, citing a favourite passage from Philippians 4:13.

Maryam will be another recipient of the new aid project. The 61 year-old lady welcomed the ICEJ team with a bright smile and a friendly hug. In spite of difficult circumstances, her joy and faith are evident.

When her mother became sick, Maryam had to quit work to take care of her. Yet since her parents died 13 years ago, Maryam has not been able to find a new job and is living alone in her family’s house. Though she has three brothers also living in Bethlehem, relations have not been easy as they have tried to evict her out of the family house.

“Because I have Jesus at my side, they couldn’t take my house”, explained Maryam. “The Lord touched my heart with the verse John 3:16 and I walk with the Lord.”

In beautiful Arab calligraphy, this verse hangs in a frame in her living room. She has a heart for her neighbours, most from traditional Christian backgrounds, and she likes to share about the Lord with them. However, she revealed one of her deep sorrows.

“They all like me, but they don’t like me to talk about Jesus”, she said.

Maryam has managed a meager income by renting a room in her house. But she added that “the Lord sends me money and sometimes I don’t know how, but he helps me”. When Aisha told her, that she is chosen to participate in the food program, Maryam was thrilled.

“It will help me a lot because I don’t have much income”, she said while turning to ask Aisha: “Can I also buy vegetables and fruit with it?”

When told “yes”, Maryam smiled: “Excellent!” Because of diabetes and high blood pressure, she also needs medication.

“If I have money and the clinic has it in stock, I buy medication. If not, I don’t buy it.”

Maryam rarely leaves the house except when she is picked up for church events. More than once she has fallen, breaking a leg on one occasion and her right hand on another.

Aisha is glad to help with coordinating the project. “For me the focus is to help people”, she said. “We local Christians are concerned about those in need and we hope for peace. Everybody hopes for peace!”

Please help us support needy Christian families like these in Bethlehem and Beit Jallah. A one-time or monthly gift of $100 to ICEJ AID will provide essential aid for families struggling to survive. Please designate your giving as “aid for Arab Christians”. Your gift will let them know that they are not forgotten and your prayers are much appreciated as well.

Click here to donate to ICEJ AID


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