Shevet Sunday


A temporary dweller

Dear coworkers, Three newborns with complex heart defects were barely clinging to life in the Gaza Strip as we entered the two-day Rosh Hashana holiday last Sunday night. Two were the dreaded hypoplastic left hearts, which have a poor prognosis. Our main partners at the Sheba Medical Center wouldn’t take any of the children, as… Read more »

What is broken can be repaired

Dear coworkers, You may be shocked to see Shevet Sunday arriving 6-8 hours ahead of schedule this week. The first of the high holy days–the Feast of Trumpets/Shofars–begins here at sunset, a day of Shabbat rest about which the Torah says to the Jewish people (and to the strangers living in their midst): “You must not do any… Read more »

All made in the image of God

Dear coworkers, As you may know we are an entirely volunteer community, and families who’ve been with us for a heart surgery will often then turn around and help other families to come. In northern Iraq one Muslim mother in particular has helped scores of other families prepare to travel. She’s much more diligent, caring… Read more »

The worth of every human

Dear coworkers, A blog caught my eye this week about a religious Jewish doctor whose life was saved by an Arab nurse and Arab lifeguard who were passing by in Jerusalem: With a sudden jolt I recognized that the doctor (in blue shirt above) was the deputy director of the rehabilitation hospital in Jerusalem, who was coming… Read more »

Brothers in shortcoming

Dear coworkers, Heading into this Shabbat we were heading for trouble. A newborn baby in the West Bank and another in Gaza needed emergency life-saving heart surgeries in Israel. But by late Friday afternoon our partners at the Sheba Medical Center weren’t making their usual heroic effort to find a place for these babies. With… Read more »

Give them the best of my life

Dear coworkers, In last week’s letter I shared how Michelle and I found baby Laith in an incubator in Hebron, just waiting to die since there was no hospital willing to accept him for emergency heart surgery: Through the favor and partnerships God has given, Laith was taken by ICU ambulance on the next day (the Sabbath)… Read more »

The love that overcomes

Dear coworkers, Wednesday a pediatric nephrologist reached out to us from the orthodox-Jewish-identified hospital in Jerusalem called Shaare Zedek (the “gates of righteousness” of Psalm 118:19). Like many Israeli doctors we’ve met, when he heard of a hospitalized Palestinian baby named Laith who couldn’t access life-saving heart surgery, he made it his business to stop and… Read more »

As a man carries his son

Dear coworkers, On Shabbat I shared a message with the Narkis Street congregation in Jerusalem, starting with the good news that our son Josh and his wife Madelyn just had their fourth child, Ezra Jonathan (our third grandson born in 2022!). That joyful image led us throughout the message, as we considered the words of Moses: “..the… Read more »

Everything we hold dear

Dear coworkers, The first sign of trouble came in with the traditional Friday evening WhatsApp video of our Ashdod community singing “Hine Mah Tov” and “Shabbat Shalom”: As soon as I saw our eight coworkers squeezed into our kitchen pantry I opened a news site. Sure enough, rockets from Gaza were landing across southern Israel… Read more »

Fighting for the voiceless

Dear coworkers, It seems like every weekend now we are rushing a critical newborn to Israel, just as the sun is setting before the start of the Shabbat. Friday it was two-week-old Maria: After birth her oxygen levels were just 50% of normal. Maria’s organs were starting to shut down as doctors in Hebron struggled to… Read more »

A pitched battle for lives

Dear coworkers, A pitched battle for the lives of Gaza kids is being waged in the Sheba pediatric cardiac ICU in Israel. It’s stunning to walk from room to room and witness the intensity of the efforts to save so many children. That’s Maryam, the latest arrival who came Friday by ambulance just before the… Read more »

The faithful shepherd

Dear coworkers, My phone rang at 1:34 Thursday afternoon while we were in a clinic visit with a Gaza child at Israel’s largest hospital, the Sheba Medical Center. Didn’t I know I was four minutes late for a long-scheduled meeting with the children’s hospital director? I scurried through the labyrinthine hallways until I found the… Read more »

People just like us

Dear coworkers, “Did you make a sacrifice?” I asked the three mothers we picked up this morning from the Gaza Strip, drawing a finger across my throat to supplement my broken Arabic. Yesterday was the start of the Eid Al Adha holiday, on which every Muslim family that is able will remember Abraham’s offering of… Read more »

My mouth is full of thanks

Dear coworkers, Michelle and I returned from the US just in time to witness a miracle this Shabbat: Yes, that’s a boy from Syria (Hussein) joyfully and freely celebrating his fifth birthday in a park in Israel! If only the local families out in the park knew what was going on right before their eyes–I… Read more »

I won’t demonize anybody

Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the hearts consider it? Proverbs 24 Dear coworkers, Two precious babies were delivered from death today by doctors at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Yad from… Read more »

This hope he gave us

Dear coworkers, I was so pleased and relieved to see this picture of a little Kurdish man cross our community thread this afternoon: Brwa is yet another baby from northern Iraq born with transposition of the great arteries, and rushed to Israel within the first two months of life while it is still possible to switch… Read more »

The mountain of the LORD

Dear coworkers, Increasingly I am stunned and perplexed when sending out the Thursday Shevet Prayer letter. So many children from so many places coming and going and living and dying and in the midst of long struggles in the ICU. I start to identify with the handful of disciples that were following Messiah: When Jesus looked… Read more »

Have it out with him

Dear coworkers, Long before the second chapter of Acts, the Hebrew Bible gives unforgettable accounts of the power of the spirit of God to transform us. The prophet Samuel told Saul on the day he became king: …the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be transformed… Read more »

We are brothers

Dear coworkers, After Hanna and Amelie picked up two-year-old Amina and her mother at Ben Gurion Airport this morning, for the first time I can remember we have two Syrian children at the same time in Israel for heart surgeries: The other Syrian refugee child, Hussein, was taken into the hospital after the end of the Sabbath… Read more »

Favor with God

Dear coworkers, It happened again this morning. A child who was waiting for months in Iraq for heart surgery finally made the long journey to Israel and arrived safely at Ben Gurion airport: Our team took these two families to rest at our home in Ashdod but soon realized something was wrong. Lara (seated in… Read more »

Jews and Christians loving Muslims

Dear friends, Today was finally surgery day for newborn Racheal from Kurdistan, northern Iraq. You may remember how she escaped a prenatal recommendation for abortion, after we told her family that almost all heart defects are treatable and promised to help her get to Israel no matter what. Miraculously Racheal made it to Israel alive 25 days… Read more »

There is such a thing as the truth

Dear coworkers, Our morning meeting was half its normal size today, as our crews were already out shepherding two young boys, Ahmed and Wael, from the Gaza crossing to both Sheba and Hadassah hospitals in Israel: 18-year-old Amelie was among those who remained behind at our base in Ashdod, and she offered somber prayer for two Gaza newborns,… Read more »

If I am silent

Dear coworkers, It was ice cream night out tonight for our community and families, some of whom were especially excited because the month-long Ramadan fast ended at sunset! Has Ashdod ever seen such a group, including Assyrians, Syrians, and Iraqis, as well as volunteers from three continents? It’s a picture of the kingdom of God…. Read more »

A kippa for her Muslim baby

Dear coworkers, A prenatal echo in Kurdistan, northern Iraq showed that a baby girl in the womb had a serious heart defect. Her doctor recommended abortion; we told the family that almost all heart defects can be treated, urged them to trust God, and promised to help. That kind of promise is sacred and must… Read more »

Medicine for the soul

Dear coworkers, Messiah is risen! By his obedience he reversed the failure of the first Adam, and on today’s Feast of Firstfruits (see Leviticus 23) his presentation alive before the Father gives us hope that we too can take part in the last Adam’s victory over sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15). This was all so… Read more »

As long as the sun and the moon

Dear coworkers, Willem from Holland and I have criss-crossed Kurdistan, northern Iraq this week. It’s been five months since I was last here, and I’m struck anew by the open doors and lovely, humble, grateful hearts we find in each city: More than once, as praise is given to our work we’ve had to remind… Read more »

We are brothers

Dear coworkers, Surprisingly blunt words from the doctors to Bria and Willem today: there is nothing more they can do for newborn Qusai, and he is dying. When we first received his medical report from Gaza three weeks ago we knew his prognosis was grim. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome may be the worst of all congenital… Read more »

Trust the word of God

Dear coworkers, After texting and calling the Israeli authorities all day for permission, finally just past 4 pm this afternoon one-year-old Qusai came trundling out of the Gaza Strip crossing: Our team set off immediately for the Hadassah Medical Center on the southern edge of Jerusalem, where Qusai was already hours late for his hospitalization, in preparation… Read more »

Look what the word of God can do

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. Yakov (James) 4 Dear coworkers, It’s marvelous really, the power of the word of God to change our hearts and our actions. Much of the reason for our community’s survival is found in the time we share… Read more »

Life from the dead

Dear coworkers, This afternoon I had to make a challenging call to the new person in charge of finances at the Sheba Medical Center, to talk about two-year-old Ahmed from Gaza: Ahmed suffered brain damage during his second heart surgery, and now needs at least a month of intensive rehabilitation. The doctors want to get started but… Read more »

Never ashamed of his people

Dear coworkers, The new Shevet community home Revayah (think “my cup overflows”) continues blossoming to life, just as the almond tree in its garden. A heroic effort by our all-female team of Joanne, Rachel, Ella, Doro, Hanna, Lilly and Amelie (praying from corona isolation) somehow tonight transported four Kurdish families and their countless suitcases from our Jerusalem… Read more »

That others might live

Dear coworkers, The expected Russian cakewalk over Ukrainian forces hasn’t yet materialized this weekend. It could be a natural reluctance of Russian soldiers to attack their ethnic and religious brothers over what they must realize is an unrighteous cause. (This may also be the reason that a large contingent of Chechnyan jihadists now appears to be bearing down… Read more »

Rebirth of sincere fellowship

Dear coworkers, Surprising news today that as of March 1 Israel will throw open its borders to unvaccinated tourists: “…it is time to open up that which we were the first in the world to close,” said prime minister Naftali Bennett. It’s been nearly two years since Israel hermetically sealed the country, an unprecedented step which probably… Read more »

Father of the fatherless

Dear coworkers, We’re a week into our new community base in Ashdod. Slowly we’re sorting out the piles of belongings transferred from Jaffa and turning the place into a home–even as workers are still cutting and breaking and pounding their way to put four more bedrooms in what was once the attic. We had to… Read more »

Seek peace and pursue it

Dear coworkers, Our namesake Psalm 133 starts with the word “Behold!” Look and see how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. It is a sign to the world. In the same way Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This may… Read more »

More important than ourself

Dear coworkers, I have to admit I was dreading today. We’ve been inching toward the big move from our longtime Jaffa base to a new home in Ashdod, halfway down the coast toward the Gaza Strip. And today was the big day when we started seriously moving out from our three duplexes with 17 rooms… Read more »

I would have lost heart

Dear coworkers, This week one of the main Israeli television news channels gave 6+ minutes for a beautiful retelling of the story of 13-year-old Farooq from Kurdistan: You may remember: he was on his deathbed in northern Iraq at the end of October, and none of our partner hospitals in Israel had space for him. We’ve seen… Read more »

Shoulder to shoulder

  Rescue those being led away to death and restrain those stumbling toward the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” will not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds? Dear coworkers, This… Read more »

All that you need

Dear coworkers, As we entered 2022 last weekend, I wrote you of the pain (and the potential) in our financial shortfall, and in the simultaneous loss of our long-term community members and the Jaffa building we’ve called home. I found myself questioning this week if it was really God’s will to start building from the ground… Read more »

As we enter 2022

Dear coworkers, It was stirring over the weekend, to see friends old and new digging deep and standing with us to meet our commitments to help Israeli hospitals with 2021 surgeries. According to our online counter (click here and select “2021 year-end commitments”) $124,322 has now come in toward the total needed of $450,000. Thank you to… Read more »

We’ll give up our lives

Dear coworkers, Hoping you were blessed just as our Shevet community was this Christmas. We gathered on Christmas Eve in Jaffa, which has a surprisingly vibrant celebration due to the traditional Christian community there (which numbers Benny Hinn among its sons): Our Kurdish Iraqi families joined us back home later for homebaked German cookies and… Read more »

Healing on the Shabbat

Dear coworkers, All day Friday the anxious mother of the new Kurdish transposition baby Rohat kept calling me from her quarantine in our Jerusalem guesthouse. Her son was coughing and choking and unable to drink milk, although he didn’t have a fever and his oxygen saturation readings were stable: With visions of waiting hours in… Read more »

Lovers of the truth

Dear coworkers, Just three Shevet Sundays remain in 2021, including tonight. So this weekend I finally buckled down and pored through our records to see where we stand at year’s end. First of all, yes, it’s no way to run an organization, going over the books when the year is nearly over to see how… Read more »

Costly intercession

Dear coworkers, Our community was in recovery mode this Shabbat after the draining events of last week. If you haven’t already seen it, Bria gave a full account in Friday’s Shevet Prayer letter of the grievous death of little Yano, as well as the joyful recovery and homegoing of Farooq. What strikes me in her account is… Read more »

Walk in the light

Dear coworkers, The skies over Israel are closing again to foreign visitors at this hour. So it was especially urgent to get the two Kurdish boys Akar and Mizgeen into the country this morning; Mizgeen’s oxygen saturation readings are in the 40-50% range, which is generally incompatible with life. But last night Israel’s online entry platform kept returning the… Read more »

Nothing my God cannot do

Dear coworkers, If you haven’t seen Yano singing My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do, then please stop right now and read this week’s Shevet Prayer lettter. We need to join with her childlike faith, as in a few hours doctors at the Sheba Medical Center attempt to wean Yano… Read more »

You brought out the best in us

Dear coworkers, Michelle and I walked into the Schneider Children’s Medical Center tonight looking for 13-year-old Farooq from Iraq. We found him in the ICU chewing on a chocolate bar: What’s incredible about this is that he’s already come through his high-risk, “50% mortality” heart surgery. In last Sunday’s letter Farooq’s abdomen was grossly swollen and surgery… Read more »

Turtle on a fencepost

Dear coworkers, My wife Michelle and I were finally able to return to Israel this week as the country reopens to tourists; me on Thursday, after ten months away, and Michelle on Friday, after 18 months. And my quarantine ended Thursday night just in time to join the farewell party for Julio, Luzma and Paula,… Read more »

“We accept”

Dear coworkers, As I write the borders of Israel are reopening at midnight to (vaccinated) tourists for the first time in some 20 months. But this welcome news appears to invalidate previously-issued entry permits for unvaccinated visitors, which meant that today was possibly the last day that desperately-ill Farooq could enter Israel. He’s the neglected 13-year-old Iraqi… Read more »

Open on all four sides

Dear coworkers, All is not well in the West. This week the two-year-old orthodox Jewish girl Alta Fixler died in a hospice in Manchester after authorities ordered staff to turn off her ventilator. Despite the pleas of her parents and the willingness of Israel to accept her and continue her care, the UK government asserted that… Read more »

From crooked heart to new heart

Dear coworkers, This week a beloved community member, as we all do, made a wrong choice. And in what may say as much about our community as about the individual, this member did not feel free to make honest confession of the failing. Instead the truth was denied repeatedly in a way that broke trust… Read more »

Hearts strangely warmed

Dear coworkers, The call came in early Friday morning from Gaza. Five-day-old Nadeen was born with critical narrowing of the pulmonary valve, and was barely clinging to life in the hospital via a special medication that keeps open the duct which supplies oxygen to a baby while in the womb: With one eye on our… Read more »

Not in our hand

Dear coworkers, We’ve been through a lot with Sulaiman. Of all the transposition babies from Iraq whose entry to Israel was delayed this spring, he waited the longest: 53 days. Subsequently he ended up on ECMO heart-lung support after the surgery to switch his arteries, and suffered some bleeding of the brain. Yet he came through… Read more »

Be even more bold

Dear coworkers, The sun has set here in the Middle East and we’ve entered the last and great day of the week-long Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). This is a day of joy for our Jewish neighbors. Each preceding day of Sukkot worshippers in the synagogue have circled around the Torah reader’s platform one time reciting… Read more »

Let down the nets

Dear coworkers, I’m back in Kurdistan, northern Iraq this week, after a nearly three-month absence. Thinking and praying about reestablishing a base for our community here, and looking at a few potential houses today: Hundreds of families across this region have been with us to Israel for heart surgeries, and our hearts and hopes are… Read more »

Break the chains of wickedness

Dear coworkers, We’re entering into autumn, and the last third of the year on the Gregorian calendar. And tomorrow night on the Hebrew calendar we’re entering the seventh month and the high holidays that it brings. We’ll have fully five Torah holy days this month, in addition to the Shabbats, on which no work is… Read more »

On the mountain of the LORD

Dear coworkers, Another milestone this weekend in the struggle to get children from northern Iraq into Israel in time for life-saving heart surgeries. With the medical escort of our coworkers Nate and Colin, and with last-minute cooperation from Israel’s interior and foreign ministries, eight more children landed safely Friday morning at Ben Gurion airport: It… Read more »

The moment they’ve longed for

Dear coworkers, The long, long battle to reunite Asmeen and mother with their family in Kurdistan finally came to fulfillment Thursday. Here’s the moment they’ve longed for the past eight months: Transferring Asmeen from Israel to northern Iraq while on mechanical ventilation was surely the most complex, challenging journey in the history of our community…. Read more »

The love and compassion of Israel

Dear coworkers, Two months and one week after we first applied for his visa, 33-year-old Mohammed from Kurdistan has just boarded the first of two flights which, God willing, will bring him safely to Israel tomorrow morning: Despite two previous surgeries for his congenital heart defect in Iraq and Jordan, the right side of Mohammed’s… Read more »

In the image of God

Dear coworkers, Our tiny Jaffa community has been through so many crises in recent months, and they’re in the thick of another. On Shabbat our partners at the Sheba Medical Center called to say beloved little Dina, the Kurdish child with a severely cleft lip and palate, had collapsed and been resuscitated, and would be… Read more »

Strands of the divine plot

Dear coworkers, Several long-running dramas will reach their denouement this week, as the strands of the divine plot are drawn perfectly together. Do you remember the little Yazidi girl Meera who arrived with our first group of delayed babies back in March? “At first glance, Meera is startlingly purple,” Georgia wrote then: …her fingers are clubbed… Read more »

All men are created equal

Dear friends, Those of you who see the mid-week Shevet Prayer letter (click here to subscribe) already know how the Sheba doctors fought for the life of eight-month-old Shadi this week, as intercessors around the world fought alongside them. Shadi’s surgery wasn’t delayed by visa issues, like so many of the critically-ill newborns we’ve seen in recent… Read more »

Who they are called to be

Dear friends, Do you remember the ISIS refugee baby Sulaiman, and the agonizing 53-day wait for his permission to enter Israel in time for his emergency heart surgery? Two weeks ago he was between life and death on the ECMO device after surgery; last Sunday surgeons at the Sheba Medical Center were finally able to close… Read more »

Cracking the stony wall

Dear coworkers, Last week I wrote you about the painful loss of the Kurdish baby Ayan, caused at least in part by the long delay of his entry visa by Israel’s interior ministry. Tonight Georgia reports that the mother of another delayed baby, Sulaiman, is “bursting with good news” after his chest was finally closed 12 days… Read more »

Making all things new

Beloved friends, The past two weeks we’ve focused on two transposition babies in critical condition in the Sheba Medical Center, after visa delays pushed their surgeries outside the safest window for intervention. Today Georgia, Alena and Sabrina were shocked to find one of them, Mohammed B, already out of the ICU and on the fast track… Read more »

Transformed into creatures of the air

Dear coworkers, Last week’s letter was a call to prayer for two of the transposition babies, in critical condition and on the ECMO device after their entrance to Israel for surgery was delayed by the interior ministry for over a month. Thank God—since then baby Mohammed has come off ECMO and today doctors finally closed his chest,… Read more »

Never turn away a child

Dear friends, We need to pray. Two of the Kurdish transposition babies whose entrance to Israel was delayed by the interior ministry are in the most critical condition tonight. Doctors at the Sheba Medical Center took the drastic step of putting them on the ECMO device (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to give their tiny hearts a… Read more »

Israel we know and love

Dear friends, For the first time Israel has a Torah-observant prime minister tonight: Naftali Bennett started the day by tweeting the Aaronic blessing, along with a picture of him praying with tefillin. This afternoon he concluded his speech to the Knesset by saying “I pray to God that He grant me wisdom and understanding to lead the State… Read more »

Comfort my people

Dear coworkers, After 53 days the saga of Sulaiman’s entry to Israel finally came to an end Thursday. His crying awoke me early that morning, from across the hall in the Baptist guesthouse in Jordan near the border crossing into Israel. We’d been waiting there for nine days, since the other six in Sulaiman’s group… Read more »

Faith rather than religion

Dear coworkers, The battle for the transposition babies continues. When I wrote you last Sunday, four of the latest group of seven had just entered Israel following delays of over a month; two more were allowed to enter on Tuesday. They’ve all been evaluated and the first baby, Lava, will go in for surgery tomorrow morning… Read more »

First four transpositions arrive

Dear coworkers, Today seven weeks were fulfilled since the resurrection day of Messiah, and our community normally sets this Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) apart as a Torah holiday of rest, worship and laying hold afresh of the promise of the Holy Spirit. But Israel as a nation already marked the holy day last Monday, according… Read more »

Healing hearts underground

Dear friends, When our coworker Sabrina went to visit the children today at the Sheba Medical Center, she found that due to the current state of war the whole intensive care unit has been moved from the top floor of the children’s hospital to an underground parking garage: What a picture! Even as rockets from… Read more »

Wait for the Lord

Dear coworkers, Let’s take stock. One month has passed since nine urgent children from Iraq made it into Israel, after a long struggle to get permission from the interior ministry which ended only after intervention from the media and the Knesset. The delay made the arrival of the children late–almost too late. When I wrote… Read more »

Be there for each other

Dear coworkers, I wrote you a week ago on the eve of Salwa’s switch surgery, the last such surgery to be done for the six babies now in Israel who were born with transposition of the great arteries. And I suggested we could “relax a little” about rushing the next seven transpositions babies to Israel,… Read more »

Recognize each other as brothers

Dear coworkers, First of all tonight, look what God has done! Of the six Kurdish children who came last month with transposition of the great arteries, five have now had successful surgery to switch those arteries back to their proper places. The latest was Yousif, who went in for a routine check on Thursday, and… Read more »

Seven more transpositions!

Dear friends, Our little neighborhood in Jaffa is all over the national news in Israel this evening, after two Arab men gave a beating to the rabbi who runs a nearby yeshiva for young Jewish men before they enter the army. This hits a nerve for many Jews who believe Israel’s core purpose is to be the… Read more »

Honored to suffer

Dear friends, Are you ever like me impatient with the people of Israel as you read the exodus account, wondering with a tinge of self-righteousness how they could witness such mighty miracles and turn around the next day to doubt God, complain, and worship a golden calf? Well we truly are made of the same… Read more »

Never give up

Friends, When I arrived five weeks ago at a Yazidi refugee camp in northern Iraq with our Kurdish coworkers Ahlam and Ramzi (parents of a previous heart patient named Shana), we had no idea what was awaiting us inside the tents. We found a first-time mother, who had just given birth to triplets, anxiously watching… Read more »

In their spiritual DNA

Dear coworkers, Last Sunday night I suggested that prayer rather than publicity could help the nine urgent Iraqi children refused entrance to Israel by the coronavirus travel exceptions committee. And indeed the next day when I saw the article published about the crisis I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was basically the same story that’s been… Read more »

“Come with us”

Dear friends, A week after the miraculous transfer of six families into and six families out of Israel, I find myself still writing to you tonight from Jordan. While the Lord made a way for the families, he has chosen thus far to leave me and eight other coworkers still outside the promised land and… Read more »

A singing people

Dear coworkers, I wrote you last Sunday about newborn Mina, whose life and future depended on her reaching Israel as quickly as possible: But with the airport closed in Tel Aviv, she and five other urgent children had no discernible path to enter Israel, just as the six Kurdish families stranded in Israel after their… Read more »

In God we trust

Dear coworkers, Something strange is happening here in Kurdistan, northern Iraq this week. Yes, the pope is in town for the first time since…ever. Iraqis and Kurds are excited and proud–like all of us they want to know they matter and that the world deems them worthy of attention. I’d like to believe in some way they… Read more »

You’re not alone

Dear friends, Ten months ago our coworker Alena brought little Ziad out of Gaza for what we expected to be a routine echo: It turned into multiple surgeries and a ten-month stay, during the last five months of which Ziad was breathing only with the help of a tracheostomy. His lovely parents each spent months… Read more »

The hem of his garment

Dear coworkers, A couple of nights ago I came across these words which I wrote to you in a Shevet Sunday five years ago this week: It’s a fool’s errand, I know. But I’ve resolved to start dividing my own time equally between Kurdistan and Israel, together with whoever else is called and willing to… Read more »

So much stronger together

Dear coworkers, Our father in heaven strengthened our hands through the affirmation you gave following last week’s letter about Abed and Asma and the non-heart-related care they so urgently needed in Israel. Here are the first four replies received: My heart skips for joy when I read this letter–I witness in my spirit that you… Read more »

Abandon all of our worries

Dear coworkers, 11-year-old Asma was discovered in Gaza to have a malformation of blood vessels in her brain. Palestinian doctors who examined her in Nablus, Ramallah and East Jerusalem all agreed she can only be safely treated by a specialist in Israel using advanced endovascular intervention. The day after we heard about Asma, we were also… Read more »

What must we do

Jerusalem at night Dear coworkers, The first month of 2021 is already gone. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day,” Jesus said. “Night is coming when no one can work.” I’m steadily convicted by the spirit that now is our time to invest the talents we’ve received, for our master… Read more »

When Abba gives blows

Dear friends, The Israeli government today took the unprecedented step of “hermetically” sealing the country by shutting down all incoming flights until next Sunday. During this time the country will race to vaccinate another one million citizens against COVID, which will bring the level of vaccination to about 40% of the population. (They’re already vaccinating high school students!)…. Read more »

We’re alive together

Dear friends, My understanding was taken to a whole new level this week of what a treasure our community is. Shortly after I wrote you last Sunday night, my son Ben texted to say that our coworker Frank, a 73-year-old widower, was in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a ventilator with COVID. That… Read more »

Life from the dead

Dear coworkers, When my heart is heavy with concern, fear or confusion, I open the Psalms and am immediately confronted by the glorious imperatives to give thanks, rejoice in the LORD, and bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,… Read more »

Hope we can be changed

Dear coworkers, As we enter the new year there are good reasons to thank our Father. I wrote you two weeks ago about the arrival in Israel of our five emergent Christmas babies from Iraq; today Georgia shares that little Eliyas (“Elijah”) was rushed into surgery after his oxygen levels dropped, becoming our first surgery of… Read more »

Fear not little flock

Dear friends, Three Sundays ago I wrote you from the emergency room. Doctors had just emerged grimly after 35 minutes of resuscitating Alaa and connecting him to heart-lung support, and made clear they didn’t think he would survive. Two Sundays ago Alaa was weaned from the heart-lung device but still ventilated and critical. Last Sunday he… Read more »

A branch from the stump of Jesse

Dear coworkers, Last Sunday night I shared that against all odds Alaa’s heart started working on its own. And those of you who watch our Facebook/Instagram updates or Alaa’s blog know how shocked I was to walk into the ICU Thursday night and find him not only breathing on his own but also sitting up and… Read more »

Do we love our Jewish neighbors?

Dear coworkers, My letter to you last Sunday night was brief. Doctors had just come out of the emergency room and told me they didn’t think our much-loved Alaa from Gaza was going to survive. Over the next day or two it became clear that this was caused by a mistake in his medication. I was by… Read more »

The valley of the shadow of death

Friends, I’m writing you from the emergency room at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv. Our dear Alaa from Gaza was rushed here tonight by ambulance after experiencing fever, cough and pain in the wake of his heart surgery two and a half weeks ago: It was our coworker Amar who worked for hours and insisted… Read more »

A little baby has visited the earth

Dear coworkers, Israel’s prime minister was on hand Thursday morning when the first commercial “flydubai” flight landed in Israel from the United Arab Emirates: “There will be many more, going both directions. But you can only be first once,” he said at a welcoming ceremony in the arrival hall. “And this is a pivotal moment, because we’re… Read more »

A captivating righteousness

Dear coworkers, A humble 25-year-old man from Hebron approached the admissions window this evening at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, anxious to get his firstborn son Saif Aldin in for emergency heart surgery that couldn’t be done in the Palestinian territories: I stood over his shoulder and listened to the admissions clerks talking about… Read more »

Let the stories tell themselves

Dear coworkers, The elevator doors burst open late in the evening and out strode a five-member team from Magen David Adom (the Red Shield of David), surrounding a newborn Gaza baby in an incubator: As you can see in the video above, they were single-mindedly focused on getting baby Osama into the cardiac critical care unit… Read more »

Let not your hearts be troubled

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it… Read more »