By Moti Cohen
This last week, Tiferet Yeshua hosted a first aid certification course, organized by Tiferet Yeshua youth leader, Halel, for the volunteers who work on the streets of south Tel Aviv. Most of the volunteers who work with Feed Tel Aviv are first aid certified, but this course offered newer volunteers a chance to become certified and was a great refresher for those who are already.
You may be asking, “Why would volunteers in a food outreach program need to be first aid certified?” It is a great question. The answer is with the homeless we serve in south Tel Aviv: people living on the streets are more than hungry: they are extremely vulnerable to violence, sickness and disease. Because the need for first aid is so great among the homeless, one of our volunteers always focuses solely on first aid each time we go out to serve food.
It Begins and Ends with Drugs:
The common denominator for everyone on the streets is drugs. Because of the proliferation of cheap, highly addictive synthetic drugs, many vulnerable people become hopelessly addicted after one hit. Addiction takes over their lives, they lose everything and end up on the streets, and many fall into crime and prostitution to support their habit. These drugs are a powerful tool of the enemy to quickly destroy people. We have witnessed it time and again how, in a matter of weeks and months, people who look healthy become weak and frail, their teeth fall out, they look years beyond their actual age, and all the life goes out of their eyes.
Afraid to seek professional medical care:
In serious cases where we see that people need professional medical care, we always try to get them to a hospital, and sometimes we succeed. However, because the people we are trying to help often have been involved in crime and prostitution to fund their addiction, they are afraid of going to the hospital for fear that the police will be called to deal with them, and they are usually unwilling to let us call an ambulance or bring them to the ER. This means that, very often, the help we offer is the only help they are willing to accept.
(Feed Tel Aviv volunteers caring for the homless with food and first aid)
Violence at the hands of powerful drug dealers:
Since drugs is the powerful force dominating what happens in south Tel Aviv, it is not surprising that the ones controlling this area are the drug dealers. The worst wounds we see in the homeless are from violence at the hands of drug dealers. Many of the homeless drug addicts become “cups”, or middlemen, for the drug dealers to collect money owed them. If the “cups” don’t come up with the money, for whatever reason, the drug dealers will make a point to leave people with horrific facial scars in order to send a message to the others on the street.
Bodies weakened by drug use and attack:
The most common first aid that we give is disinfecting wounds— in the hands, arms, legs and feet. Because people’s systems are so weakened by the drug use and they are living in unsanitary conditions, festering wounds become a persistent problem. The homeless often have wounds from being attacked by animals, be it rats, dogs or cats. Whenever someone it bitten by an animal, we try to get them to the hospital for shots against animal-born illnesses. However, usually the only help they are willing to accept is that which we are giving them.
Building trust takes time but opens doors to the heart:
Our motto at Feed Tel Aviv is: share the love of God, hope, and the gospel of salvation with the homeless in our city. Firstly, meeting people’s immediate physical needs in a caring and compassionate way—this is bringing them the love of God. We tell them about drug rehabilitation centers run by believers and actively connect any who are interested—bringing them hope. When we are meeting their physical needs, we ask if they would like prayer, opening the door to share who we are and in in whose name we pray—to share the gospel of salvation. Some do and some don’t.
But I don’t lose hope for those who refuse prayer at first: over time, seeing us there month after month, year after year, many begin to open up to us. And they often point out that they received the food and first aid from us for a long time before they felt comfortable sharing their stories with us and being willing to hear about what brings us to the streets to serve them—the love of God and the message of salvation!
We can continue this very important outreach to the homeless in Tel Aviv thanks to the generous support of our friends in the nations. Thank you!
Associate Pastor Moti Cohen