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

Just a few hours after Ziad’s death, the adult cardiac ICU called to say they believed Alaa was also dying. Alena was the advocate for bringing Alaa to Israel, and she and Berith rushed to be at his side throughout the day:

"I wanted to remind him that he is so loved, and not alone in this fight. I spoke to him, whispering, but loud enough for him to hear and I told him everything that I wanted him to know, only encouragement, because that is what he needs to hear."

I have to admit there is evidence of God's redeeming power already at work in all kinds of ways that we may not be paying attention to. On a visit to Mir and his family Friday I saw things in a new light when his mother asked me, "Do you remember that doctors in Israel told us after his surgery he would never walk or talk normally?"

The specialist in Israel will do further studies to see if the benefits of brain treatment for Asma from Gaza outweigh the very high risks:

Praying for Alaa from Gaza who is again in critical condition on ECMO with failing heart and kidneys:

This week our Jaffa community had ten Muslim families sharing in (and preparing) the Shabbat meal. The highlight for me was hearing the Hebrew greeting "Shabbat shalom" sent in from Gaza by four-year-old Leen, who shared so many of these Shabbats with us during the five months she spent in our community:

SHEVET PRAYER - Abed from Gaza had his surgery in Israel today. Praise God it seems possible to save the vision in his left eye!

11-year-old Asma from Gaza has arrived in Jaffa for the advanced brain treatment available only in Israel:

I asked our Gaza coordinator Amar three weeks ago to turn Abed and Asma away. "Tell their families to pressure the ministry of health. This is their responsibility. They have to do something."

Well three weeks later we're seeing that same painful truth that first birthed our community 26 years ago: if we don't stop along our way to help these children, no one else will. Here's the plea we received from Asma's father last Sunday:

Last night Alaa came back urgently from Gaza to the Sheba Medical Center, due to fluid buildup in his stomach which has kept him from eating and drinking for many days. After going through the emergency room he was admitted in the cardiac unit for further observation and treatment to relieve the fluid retention. Those of you who've been praying know how much Alaa has already been through!

In January we've seen ten children helped with heart surgeries and three more through interventional catheterizations. So far this is twice the pace of last year (and with half the staff!). Two more emergency newborns were rushed out of Gaza this weekend; our coordinator Amar even shook up everybody's routine by rightly insisting that we bring baby Mohammed out on the Shabbat, to protect and prepare him for the surgery to switch his great arteries:

Two Gaza newborns died today despite all efforts to save them. Please pray for their families as they mourn and honor their little girls:

Frank's oxygen support is being reduced, he is up and taking a few steps, and, most importantly, he says "the Lord has been
pointing things out and it's a great time to be able to grow!"

SHEVET PRAYER - Our co-worker Amar has worked to bring a lovely newborn girl, Besan, to Sheba Medical Center from Gaza and she will be arriving today. Please be praying for her journey which is just beginning:

Today I walked in to find the ventilator tube taken out and Frank breathing on his own. Even the nurses seemed relieved and surprised, as one told me that a majority of their COVID patients on ventilators do not recover.

We ask you to pray for our friend and coworker Frank in the United States. He contracted the coronavirus while waiting for permission to come join us again in Jaffa, and is currently on a ventilator in the ICU:

Alaa was well enough to return to his family in Gaza this week following his near-death experience in the hospital in Israel:

Exciting news for our community this week: the birth of Lindsay and Amar's second child, a healthy boy called Qais!

Alaa’s now doing so well that doctors in Israel are asking us to return him to Gaza! He still needs six more weeks of IV antibiotic treatment in hospital though, and I wrote his doctors tonight asking them to keep him in Israel until the job is done. I’d like to share the message with you, both for prayer and also reflection on our own lives as we enter another year. Why are we here, as unlikely intermediaries between Muslims and Jews? And what kind of people do we need to be in order to fulfill our role?

Only $83,873 of 2020 commitments still remains outstanding. Praise God!
I believe he again is honoring before his people Israel the commitments that we make in his blessed name. In Hebrew they call this kiddush hashem, the sanctification of the name of God.

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 seeking life-saving treatment for her son at a cost of $64,000:

“Will you help us?”

Few of us have the resources 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: