Tuesday evening marked the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn of all the holy days laid out in the Torah. It’s a time of fasting and confession, a day set aside to seek cleansing and forgiveness from sins against God and man. Across Israel work and normal life come to a halt and the whole country is at a standstill for 25 hours.
It’s one of five Torah holidays this month, so many Israelis–including one of our chief partner surgeons at Sheba hospital–take time away from work. And as the holidays started we had four emergency babies in Gaza who needed life-saving heart surgeries.
Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem is graciously stepping in to help, and newborn Hamza was invited to come last night by ICU ambulance after waiting ten days in Gaza for space to open up. Hamza’s condition deteriorated suddenly at the border, and when he had to be resuscitated the paramedics determined that he was too unstable to transport. He returned to the ICU in Gaza and stabilized somewhat. This morning we made another effort to give him another chance; at the crossing point his oxygen levels were at 30%, but with manual ventilation from a determined ambulance crew he finally reached Hadassah early this afternoon:
Doctors are concerned that he so far is not waking up even though he is receiving no anesthesia. Hamza’s situation is difficult and overwhelming, but we know his Maker still has the power to heal him. Please be in prayer for this precious baby boy and his family.
Hadassah earlier also accepted tiny Jude from Gaza and he had his first surgery yesterday. Upon beginning the operation, the surgeons discovered that they were able to do a simpler surgery than expected, and they are very pleased with the result. Jude has several defects in his heart, and the doctors decided to proceed with the difficult series of surgeries needed to reroute blood to the lungs to accommodate a single-ventricle heart rather than attempt reconstruction with two functional ventricles. For now, Jude is on his way to recovery in the ICU at Hadassah with his grandfather by his side:
As you see in the video above, when Jonathan and I visited last night Jude was already moving his little arms and opening his eyes. Pray for a full recovery for this little guy, who still has quite a long road ahead of him.
And on the eve of Yom Kippur, as the highways emptied and we along with our neighbors finished our preparations for the holiday, Kurdish baby Lawik‘s oxygen saturation began to drop at our home in Ashdod. Last week his cardiologist gave strict instructions that if saturation dropped below 72% Lawik should come straight to the hospital. It was now hovering right around 73%, where it stayed for most of the holiday while his mother grew increasingly anxious. At the end of the holiday on Wednesday evening, we checked again to find that his levels were now in the 60s. Doro and Luisa drove him and his mom to the emergency room at Sheba, where the doctors decided right away to admit him to the ICU:
Hazhin had ultrasounds for her head and kidneys yesterday, the last stage of preparation before surgery. She is now officially cleared for the operation. Both she and Lawik are scheduled for the first surgery to place a band around the pulmonary artery on Wednesday. Please pray for these sweet babies and their parents as they prepare for surgery:
Wednesday night was challenging for little Jamal from Gaza, who had some difficulty with his breathing and oxygen levels. Jamal had surgery to close his chest on Sunday and has for the most part been stable since then:
Somaia is still waiting without much progress for a place to become available for her in another hospital. The ICU at her hospital in Gaza cannot accept her due to her fragile condition. The same is true for an ICU in Hebron. Somaia’s family is now hoping that another hospital in the West Bank can accept her:
Tiny Kamel from Gaza is finally breathing on his own after being extubated for the third time. After failing the first two attempts to come off the ventilator, we are happy to see that he is doing well enough now to be moved to the intermediate ICU:
Our good friend Kenan from Gaza is doing well after his big surgery last week. Jan and Tineke found him today relaxing in his stroller and rocking a new look with the help of some face paint:
Sweet Malak from Gaza was looking extra beautiful in a new outfit when Petra stopped by for a visit on Tuesday. She is still receiving milk through a nasogastric tube, and likely will be for the near future:
We were glad to have 19-year-old Wasim from Gaza with us for the week in Ashdod. After some adjustments to his pacemaker last week, his doctor wanted to see him again this week to ensure that the device was working well with the changes. Yesterday’s report was a good one—the changes that were made to Wasim’s pacemaker are working beautifully and he is cleared to return home:
Joining Wasim and Jakob for the trip to Jerusalem were our friend Lalo from Kurdistan and his dad, who have a lot to celebrate this week. On Sunday, Lalo turned two years old and we celebrated with a birthday party for him:
It was a beautiful week for our community as we spent some extra time in prayer and reflection over Yom Kippur. When we regathered the morning after and shared our experiences, it seems that we all spent the holiday a little differently—some in Jerusalem at a messianic synagogue, some in quiet solitude at home, some enjoying restful time together—but we all came away feeling refreshed and renewed.
Renewal, I believe, is what Yom Kippur is all about. At the heart of the fasts, the self-denial and sacrifice, is a deep desire to be made new again, to be washed clean of sin and given another chance to be right with God. A few of us ended the holiday with a walk/bicycle ride together through silent streets, where we watched the sun set over Ashdod.
the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Jesus our Lord.
God bless and keep you,
Bria for Shevet Achim