by Tamar Afriat
One of the best feelings in the world is to be snug in your warm bed on a cold winter night with the sound of the wind howling outside. It is one of those things we tend to take for granted: a clean, warm bed, a hot shower, a warm meal. Recently, I had the occasion to see up close and personal what it looks like not to have a bed, a roof over your head, or warm clothes on a cold winter night, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
This past month our team joined associate pastor Moti Cohen at Feed Tel Aviv, the weekly outreach to the homeless in south Tel Aviv, in order to help out with a special project. We had received a generous donation for our Feed Tel Aviv outreach with which we purchased warm winter gear for the homeless (hats, socks, neck warmers, blankets and high quality sleeping bags). In the cold winter months, being able to stay warm becomes critical for people living on the streets.
After preparing and serving the warm meals at the facility, we all grabbed bags of the winter gear and sleeping bags and followed Moti out into the dark streets and alleyways of south Tel Aviv where many homeless spend their nights. At one time, Moti only served food out of the soup kitchen facility until he realized that many of the drug addicts are so weak and sick that they cannot walk the several blocks to get to the facility. So, knowing the streets, parks, and alleyways where the drug addicts spend the night, Moti started taking the meals to them. It was to those places we went to hand out the warm winter gear.
It is one thing to serve the homeless out of a bright, clean soup kitchen which is soaked in prayer and worship on a regular basis. It is another thing altogether to go out onto the streets where homeless drug addicts are huddled together to get through the cold night. This area of the old central bus station in Tel Aviv is considered the worst area for homelessness, drugs and prostitution in Israel and is just a couple block away from brand new multi-million dollar high rises and high-end businesses .
For some of us, it was our first time out on the streets with Moti, and it was shocking, humbling, and amazing.
Shocking: seeing people huddling together under makeshift tarps of rags and cardboard boxes, shooting up heroine or smoking “nice guy”, a cheap and horribly addictive street drug—anything to numb the pain of who knows what trauma they have experienced.
Humbling: to serve with some truly amazing people who have a special gift to get on level with the homeless, in the trash, with the rats, and give them love and respect, and to share the love of God with them. Whoever is willing, we connect with drug rehab facilities.
Amazing: Some just wanted prayer, like the man in this picture. It was a powerful moment for all of us.
As much as this ministry is an outreach to the neediest of the needy, the people on whom our society has given up, it is also an essential learning experience for us. To put it in the words of our friend, Anat, who runs a ministry with her husband, Ishai, reaching out to the women enslaved in the sex industry in this area: “This is what Jesus would be doing if he would came here today. He would find the Samaritan woman right here. He would find Mary Magdalene right here. He wouldn’t go to our churches, I’m sorry to say, but He would come right here to the homeless and the needy.”
When we minister to these precious people, we touch something important in the Lord’s heart : humbling ourselves to be open to and to serve those who are in the most desperate need of His love. That is indeed what He did for us. I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless live is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.
“I imagine that those dark, cold, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless drug addicts are trying to numb their pain in whatever way they can is not a far cry of how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.”
We want to thank you for supporting this ministry. Because of your help, we are able to continue this important work of reaching out to the poorest of the poor in our city. Thank you!