“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” – Psalm 133

20-year-old Asaeed is always coming from Gaza by himself for appointments in the hospital in Israel, since he is old enough to travel without an escort. He seems very relaxed most of the time, but still I can’t imagine going into a procedure under anesthesia without a family member or friend beside my bed. Coworker Zack could be there for Asaaed today when he woke up from the procedure, and he stayed with him for a couple of hours to make sure he is doing well and not feeling alone:

The medical centers in Israel gave a resounding answer this Shavuot weekend to one of the great questions of the gospels: Is it lawful to save life on the Sabbath? It seems to me that every Torah holiday this test comes up anew. This time we were hit with three emergency newborns between life and death in the Gaza Strip, just as Israel’s Shavuot observance was beginning on Thursday:

Please pray for two-day-old Machmoud who at this hour is in an ICU ambulance on the way from Gaza to Sheba Medical Center with multiple congenital heart defects. Because his life is at immediate risk the hospital agreed to receive him even as Israel is celebrating the Shavuot holiday:

After a year and a half of faithful service to Iraqi families in Israel for heart surgeries, Bria and Doro embarked this weekend on their first trip to the Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq. It’s been instructive watching the love that instantly rekindles when they meet the mothers with whom they’ve shared life and death experiences:
Even the babies and young children, who’ve lost their memories of Israel, are quickly drawn back into joyful relationship by Bria and Doro, as we saw today with the Yazidi infant Saan:

At Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, our coworker Berith shares that baby Mam from Kurdistan is looking more and more healthy after the battle for his life in the ICU: "Mam’s mother’s face shines just as bright as his, like the sun, and it makes me so happy to see her in that state. Her joy is my joy, and to God be the glory! Please continue to lift up Mam in your prayers, and thank Him for all the wonderful things He is doing in this precious little boy’s life."

Michelle and I had a sweet taste of unity this weekend, at a gathering overlooking the home of the first-century community of Jewish believers on Mount Zion. The evening ended with the Aaronic blessing given by the Berger brothers, who after coming to faith from an orthodox background have closed the circle by serving the twenty-first century community of Jewish believers on Mount Zion now for decades. Let’s pause together, listen and receive this blessing:

Our big dining room was filled with laughter, chaos, joy and families from Gaza and Kurdistan. But just as we were finishing lunch we heard that rockets were coming into the south of Israel, first only the border communities but then also to Ashkelon, and half an hour later sirens also sounded in our neighborhood. Bria and I made sure all our families safely made it to the bomb shelter in the basement. And then we were sitting there, in a safe room with mothers and grandmothers and a father, from Gaza and Kurdistan, with kids from only six weeks up to 17 years old, while rockets were fired from Gaza. It was again one of those moments where I asked myself how I ended up here, and at the same time we realized what a special moment it is:

After hours poring over records today, a clearer picture has emerged of our outstanding commitments to our fine partner hospitals in Israel. Our updated donation page now shows that $520,000 is still needed in support of the children Israeli hospitals helped in 2022. To us that amount can look like a mighty mountain. To our Father it’s probably less than a speck of dust. All I know is that he’s been so faithful year after year to help his children keep their promises made in good faith. So here we stand and wait.
And listen for the way forward. We’re still not turning away any dying child with a congenital heart defect who has no other option. Baby girl Wateen was rushed to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem on Wednesday:

Pray for Jude from Gaza, whose heart has failed. The doctors have told us that all efforts to restore his health are not working, and now the only option they see is to give him a heart transplant, but the donor list is long, and time is not. Pray that the Lord will work a miracle, and heal his broken heart—not through a transplant, which merely pushes the pain of loss to someone else, but through miraculous healing of Jude’s own heart:

A funny thing is happening this spring. First a few anemones popped up in a crack between the artificial grass and concrete steps in the garden of our new Jerusalem home. Then I began noticing them scattered all across Israel. And this week in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, they are everywhere. Our Kurdish host explained to me that it all depends on the timing of the rainfall. One year there will be no poppies, the next an abundance. And he showed me how the wind then carries the tiny black seeds to all kinds of unexpected new places:

Ten-day-old Asil was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the most difficult congenital heart defect to treat. She waited five days in the hospital in Gaza until space in the Sheba ICU opened up, and she was rushed to Israel in an incubator on the eve of the day of memorial for those killed in Israel`s many wars:

Our coworker Doro asks us tonight to pray for baby Eslam from Gaza. In a few hours doctors at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel will take him in for an exceptionally high-risk heart surgery; they’ve concluded that if they don’t he will soon die. May God give courage and wisdom as they work to bless their enemies/brothers:

Niyan from Kurdistan finally went in for her big heart surgery today at Sheba Medical Center in Israel! It was a complicated surgery in which the surgeons had to reroute her bloodflow from the right side of the body to the lungs, and they replaced the shunt she received years ago. If she recovers well, the surgeons hope to reroute the bloodflow from the left side of her body on Sunday. We ask for your prayers for the next couple of days, that will show how the body reacts to these changes:

Three piercing calls for truth:
"I am saddened that recently, maybe over the past 20 years of my life, this innate ability to differentiate between good and evil has gradually been lost from humanity…We will never accept terror as legitimate. We will never blame the murder on the victims. There’s no such thing as moral equivalence between terrorist and victim. The terrorist is always bad."
"But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate. When black will be called black and white will be called white; when at the official level it will be recognized that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper; and when those who kindled and unleashed this war, rather than those who tried to stop it, will be recognized as criminals."
"Most people don’t want to hear Christian leaders admit their sins or say they still, on occasion, sin. And almost no one wants to hear a leader say he’s come to terms with his sinful nature. But I have. And I say so publicly…"

Even as much of Israel was closed down this week, the work of our community continued—and, appropriately, given Passover week’s emphasis on new beginnings, two newborns from Gaza and Ramallah found refuge and healing in the hospital in Israel:

The first sign of the miraculous at the Garden Tomb this morning was the long orderly line snaking down the street, with no one attempting to get ahead of the other. Not seen in the Middle East these last two thousand years! Another miracle is the covered head of a faithful Muslim woman from Gaza peeking out in the midst of our community members:

Chubby one-year-old Ayham was discharged from Hadassah hospital this week and is safely back home in Gaza to spend the rest of Ramadan with his family. Ayham’s journey has not been an easy one—from bleeding in his brain as an infant to a long and difficult arterial switch surgery last month—and it’s truly incredible to see him going home healthy with a big smile.

Newborn Hadeel was rushed from Gaza to Israel just hours before everything shuts down for Passover week. $5700 is needed for her emergency heart surgery:

So many times we feared alongside Liya`s family and doctors for her life and today she came to a day we weren’t sure if she would ever experience: her first birthday! This beautiful girl is now one year old, one year of fighting and God’s faithfulness. His work in the life of Liya and her family is not done yet!

Somaia from Gaza is not only well-known in the entire pediatric ICU in Israel but also grew very close to our hearts in the ten months she spent in the hospital. Yesterday was her first follow-up echo after her discharge two months ago, and the first thing I did was to bring her and her sweet mother to the ICU where all the staff was so excited to see her. Within a few seconds everyone left what they were doing and came to see this beautiful girl and talk to her mother. They had missed Somaia just as we did and only a moment later she was not in my arms anymore:

Shevet Achim communities help children from Gaza, Iraq and Syria come to Israel for open-heart surgeries. The first community formed in 1994 in response to the plea of a mother who came to Israel with nothing but faith, seeking life-saving treatment for her son:

“Will you help us?”

Few of us know how to respond to a request like that. But we found if one person will hear that question–and then pray, give whatever they have, and share the child’s story–our Father will form a rescue community that unites all kinds of people around the shared goal of saving a child’s life. And doctors and hospitals in Israel are ready to partner with us and take more than half of the costs on themselves.

Here are some of the families of children who are asking the same question today: “Will you help us?”

How it Works:

Each of these children is invited for heart surgery in one of Israel’s largest hospitals, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, or Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. If God gives you the faith to intercede for one of these boys or girls, you can apply to become a local leader. When approved you’ll be given your own page on this website through which you can call together friends, family, and neighbors, to join you in meeting the financial goal. Everyone agrees that a child’s life should be saved–you’ll find yourself partnering with people you never would have expected! You’ll share with them regular updates on your child’s progress, including updates sent from the Shevet Achim community in Israel. And you’ll be invited to come and personally meet your child while he or she is in Israel for surgery.

Here’s how you can get started.

And here are the stories of the children now in Israel: