Friends, brothers, and sisters,
Greetings from those of us in Ashdod.
After another long week of labors, we come again to the eve of the Shabbat. We sit; we settle; we breathe. Although our community technically takes both Friday and Saturday off from work, as do most of our Israeli neighbors, our tasks usually bleed into Friday. We’ve spent much of the day cleaning, letter-writing, and going to the hospital.
Today Max and Matt were at the Sheba Medical Center to check on the Kurdish children Lya and Milad, bringing with them fresh homemade food from Asmeen’s mother. She makes meals and does the laundry for our mothers in the hospital almost every day. She has been a rich blessing to them and to us, and we are thankful for her (pictured below right).
But praise God, since then, Lya has shown consistent improvement every day. Bit by bit, she gets better and better. Yesterday her chest was finally closed by doctors after almost a week open; today we heard that she’s had no deterioration since and continues improving. Praise God!
I find that I increasingly depend on the Shabbat to breathe and to process. The weeks become an endless series of tasks and endeavors; there’s so much movement, so much to do, that I forget where and when I am and who I’m with.
We had such an inauguration this week. Little baby Yazan from the West Bank, who’s just under a year old, came to Sheba for an echo Tuesday. Yazan is the first Palestinian baby to enter Israel with Shevet since October 7th.
Yazan had his first surgery when he was just a few months old at the beginning of this year. And from that echo we learned that he has grown large enough to proceed to the next. He’ll have a CT scan soon which will allow the doctors to plan his next operation. Pray for him and his family till they return!
Yazan’s acceptance also serves as a reminder that Israel’s heart will not remain hardened against their neighbors forever. This week I also took the Gazan baby Hur from our Ashdod house to the hospital for a blood clinic. The doctor we met with spoke excellent Arabic, and the first thing he did was ask Hur’s aunt how her family was. They talked for several minutes about the war and the effect it had had on both their lives; things they regretted, people they had lost. The doctor told me, as we were leaving, how wretched he found the whole situation: “There are no winners here,” he said.
I won’t romanticize the present situation. Most of the West Bank children, even now, continue to be refused access to Israel; only a small few are given permission to enter. And at the beginning of this week, the son of Hur’s aunt was caught in a missile explosion in Gaza, and his face was severely damaged. He needs surgery, but, as his mother told me, there are no surgeons available to perform the procedure. Please pray for him, that he will get the treatment he needs. Hur’s aunt refuses to grieve or to wear her anxiety before others; the night she received the news she retreated into her room, and in the days following she has remained upright and composed.
Many of our remaining families are wrestling with anxieties these days, and I ask you to remember them in your prayer as well. Mohammed continues to wait at the crossroads between further surgery or his heart condition resolving itself with growth. His mother is afraid for her son, and she’s very afraid at the thought of returning to Kurdistan without his being fully healed.
Pray for the grandmother of Loai from Gaza, who is in our Ashdod home and rapidly nearing the due date for her pregnancy. Though she’s calm and peaceful about it, she’s also experiencing pains.
And pray for Asmeen and her mother as well. First, pray for Asmeen’s immediate healing; the other day she stuck her hand in a hot cup of tea, and it left some nasty burns on her. And second, pray for her upcoming procedure this Tuesday. It is a low-risk procedure which, according to the doctor, has about a 70% chance of resolving her kidney reflux issues; but if it doesn’t, she may be asked to wait much longer before attempting anything further, and we don’t want to inflict that on her or her mother.
Pray also for Milad from Kurdistan and his mother, who remain in the hospital with his condition largely unchanged. Milad is in a good state, and indeed, pretty much whenever I see him in the hospital—which is often—he’s in a great mood. He smiles and plays and waves his feet around with constant enthusiasm.
There is little else to say. We continue on, trying our best to be faithful with what we have been given and trusting our Lord to do the rest. Pray for our community here in Ashdod, that we keep up strength and spirit as we move forward. Pray also for our Gaza families now sheltering in Bethlehem. They are well and strong under the watchful eye of Keyla. They’ve made friends in the town who come and visit them, bringing them gifts and kind words.
I will close this letter with that, as it is time for me to rise and prepare the Shabbat dinner for our community. Beth, our newest volunteer, is preparing homemade challah bread for us, and we need to light the Shabbat candles. Soon we will sit and we will breathe and we will be quiet; and we will break the bread and drink the wine, and we will sing songs to the Lord together, and we will enter into the peace and renewal of the Sabbath.
May the God of peace and love be with you all,
Zechariah for Shevet Achim