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Homelessness in the Holy City


March 22, 2012


The holy city of Jerusalem is known for many different things. The Old City is renowned as the site of the two Jewish temples in ancient times. The ruins that cover this city hold innumerable biblical secrets. Israel’s parliamentary building is based in Jerusalem – and so much more. But one thing that rarely comes to mind when people think about Jerusalem is homelessness, which, unfortunately, is now a bigger problem than ever.

It was shocking for me to learn that in the relatively small city of Jerusalem there are hundreds of homeless people, mainly immigrants, with nowhere to go for much-needed shelter. This winter, the people who run the only homeless shelter in Jerusalem came to The Fellowship desperately begging for help before closes down due to lack of funding.

When I met with Jerusalem municipality leaders recently and asked them what the biggest problem currently facing the city is, I expected to hear about the unstable political situation and fear for terror attacks. Instead, they told me that homelessness is on the rise, and that the government has no way to meet the needs of the homeless given the city’s ever-tightening budget.

With embarrassment and sorrow, these city workers officials told me that the only homeless shelter in Jerusalem is going to have to close within the next month unless The Fellowship can raise the funds to keep it open. “This has been the rainiest winter in 10 years,” one said. “If we don’t keep the shelter open, we will see more situations like what happened to Yohanes Berko in Tel Aviv this past January.” When she said this, my heart sank. Berko was a homeless man in Tel Aviv who froze to death while sleeping on a park bench during a spell of extreme cold. It gets considerable colder in Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv, which leaves homeless people there even more vulnerable. This situation is truly what the Bible refers to as “sakanat nefashot” – life-threatening.

After hearing about this growing problem of homelessness in Jerusalem and the desperate need for shelter, these words from Leviticus 25: 35-36 began to repeat in my mind:

If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.

It was then that I knew The Fellowship needs to step in to help. It is clear to me that God wants us to act now to save the lives of Jerusalem’s homeless.

My friends, open up your hearts and pray to God for the homeless people of Jerusalem who have nowhere to go for warmth and shelter. Give to our Guardians of Israel program which supports shelters and countless other initiatives that ease the suffering of homeless Israelis. Meditate on God’s holy words in the Bible that instruct us how to respond in situations like these. There are hundreds of homeless people living on the streets of Jerusalem who are begging for our help. How will you answer them?

With blessings from the Holy Land,


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