ICEJ solidarity mission sees devastation at Kibbutz Nir Oz
By: Nicole Yoder, Vice President for Aid & Aliyah 

Nine months later, many Israelis in the Gaza border communities overrun by Hamas terrorists last October 7 still do not know what hit them. Life has been one big fog ever since. 

For Israelis in general, many of their core beliefs were shattered. Israel is supposed to a safe haven for world Jewry, where there are no pogroms. If Israelis do get in trouble, the IDF will come and rescue them, like at Entebbe.  

That all changed last October, and Israelis see worrisome signs of more trouble and uncertainty ahead. Hamas is battered but still holding on in Gaza. Many hostages remain in captivity. The northern border could still explode. Antisemitism is rampant around the globe. Few in the world truly care about the Jewish state and people. 

ICEJ solidarity tour visits Israeli car graveyard from October 7 massacres
ICEJ solidarity tour visits Israeli car graveyard from October 7 massacres.

Thankfully, there are millions of Christians who care for Israel, and many have been expressing their love and support through the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Our Aid team has been spending much time listening to the leaders and residents of the Gaza border communities to assess where they are and how we can help them on their long road to recovery. 

For instance, we just had a meeting with Yossi Keren, head of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, who served under the previous mayor and our friend Ofir Libstein – the first named casualty of this war. Yossi explained how the government has set up a special budget to help the Gaza border communities rebuild to what they had before October 7, but added: “We want to build back better. We owe it to our children to plan and develop for their future, and not just rebuild what we lost.” 

Rafi Babian hosts an ICEJ delegation
Rafi Babian hosts an ICEJ delegation.

Next door in the Sadot Negev region, security chief Rafi Babian also has the children in mind. “Our lives will return when our children can return safely,” he told us. Rafi noted that most communities away from the Gaza border are slowly returning to normal, but dozens of families from his hard-hit home village of Kibbutz Alumim do not want to return for at least another year. The residents managed to kill 38 terrorists in fighting along their perimeter fence, but lost 23 foreign workers, and the enormous tensions from being completely surrounded that day still linger. 

Further south, the Eshkol Regional Council suffered the worst during the October 7 massacres and is struggling the most to get families to return. Among its 33 communities, which includes the devastated villages of Be’eri and Nir Oz, the Eshkol region had 219 residents murdered and 121 taken hostage, with 54 still held in Gaza. In a sense, October 7 is still not over for many of these families. 

Going forward, our friends in the Gaza periphery are asking for our help with certain key areas as they recover and rebuild. This includes: 

Education: Currently, there are not enough school staff, no security fences around the schools, classrooms are crowded, and many children and staff remain traumatised. We have been asked to help sponsor children’s informal educational activities. These help give the parents rest and free them up to find work and think about the future.  

Employment: Many local businesses have failed, evacuated families may soon start to lose their benefits, and many are living too far away to reach their former jobs. They need help to return to work and restart their businesses. 

ICEJ military Ambulance dedication
ICEJ military Ambulance dedication.

Trauma care: The Eshkol region alone has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of patients needing trauma care, from 300 people per month before the Hamas invasion to 3600 patients per month today. Far more trained professionals are needed, as local social workers are fighting over every therapist. 

First-Response: Every community is urgently upgrading their first-response teams. They are changing how they operate, doubling patrols, and seeking newer equipment. 

Rebuilding: The government has set up the special “Tekuma” fund for rebuilding the battered communities, but there are delays and bureaucracy to overcome. At the moment, these plans remain on paper only, with lots of discussion but no movement. The communities are asking for help to get started on their own. 

Agricultural equipment: Yes, we are being asked to help with farming tractors and tools to replace that which Hamas burned and destroyed. 

Please partner with the ICEJ as we continue helping the Israeli communities near Gaza overcome the immense tragedy of October 7 and rebuild their lives. 

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