Volunteers in Israel Show Solidarity in Hands-On Tour

—By Nativia Samuelsen

Drawn by their hearts for a nation still locked in a difficult war, 23 Christian volunteers came to Israel from 12 nations to show practical solidarity as part of a special ICEJ hands-on volunteer service tour.

The south of Israel is still marked by the devastating attacks of October 7. Until today, the atmosphere on the farms is charged with the sound of army helicopters hovering overhead and the distant thuds of artillery shells shaking the ground. Yet somehow, a sense of peace enveloped the fields and orchards that first day, as our group of Christian volunteers in Israel navigated through the thorny citrus trees to harvest baskets full of clementines and kohlrabi. The visitors sang and conversed with local volunteers. Their dedication touched the Israeli farmers, who marveled that so many came so far from home to help them despite the risks of war and the difficulties of harvesting.

Another hands-on project took the volunteers to Ashkelon, a city heavily impacted by persistent rocket barrages from Gaza. Our volunteers spent the day renovating bomb shelters, an essential lifeline for a city whose residents must often seek refuge within their protective walls. Normally a two-day task for a crew of local workers, the ICEJ volunteers in Israel—through sheer dedication and hard work—completed the renovation of four bomb shelters in a single day. The swift work will enable more residents to reach safety quickly—and it leaves behind a visible expression of the visitors’ heartfelt support for this nation.

Gabi Nachmani, overseer of the shelter renovation project, shared his heartfelt appreciation for the ICEJ team.

“You have a special spark in your eyes,” Gabi told the Christian volunteers. “We, the Jewish people, are on the next page in the Bible. You came to Israel in this difficult time to tell us how important we are in this unfolding story. This gives us strength to continue.”

Later in the week, they met with Holocaust Survivor Eva Erben, a resident of Ashkelon who added a poignant layer to the tour experience.

“I never thought I would host the whole world in my garden,” Eva said with a smile.

As she told her story of surviving Auschwitz and a death march at the end of World War Two, she also mixed in her perspective on the current conflict.

“You can suffer a lot, you can go through a lot, but what happened on October 7th was barbaric. The Nazis were gentle compared to Hamas. The world needs to know what happened—remember to tell our story to your nation,” Eva said.

Eva’s life story and her view of the current situation gave the team even more reason to speak the truth about Israel, to ensure that “never again” truly means never again!

Volunteers in Israel Comfort Survivors amid War

The journey these volunteers took in Israel was not merely a physical one but a soul-stirring experience. Greeted by soldiers, social workers, and ordinary citizens, the team encountered a still grieving nation. Yet, the Israelis they met also were inspired by hope when they discovered that Christian friends traveled so far to lend a helping hand. Israelis on the streets would stop to chat, and these encounters often ended with hugs and tears.

Though October 7 has changed Israel forever, the people have yet to fully realize what that means, as there is still so much uncertainty about the future. Nevertheless, the presence of the ICEJ Hands-On tour brought a dose of encouragement they were not expecting, while also transforming the Christians who took part.

Beyond shelter renovations and harvesting, the volunteers extended their support by cooking meals for soldiers, the families of hostages in Gaza, and many others. Working with chefs at culinary workshops such as Citrus & Salt in Tel Aviv, the group prepared the meals while dancing, singing, and cooking side-by-side with Israeli volunteers. The international guests’ passion resonated deeply with the locals. Several native volunteers were deeply moved, exclaiming: “I can’t believe you left everything in your home countries to come here, to a war!”

During the journey, they also witnessed the horrific destruction that happened in places like Kibbutz Be’eri, the Nova music festival site, and a lot filled with 1,200 burned-out cars. Everyone was in tears upon seeing and hearing the stories of survivors firsthand.

The tour ended back in the fields, where the group planted melons in the Negev, a fitting metaphor of how, over the 10-day tour, the group sowed seeds of hope, leaving an enduring mark on the land and people of Israel. As they were planting, Anne Marie from Switzerland shared her feelings at the end of the journey.

“Israel is like Naomi in pain and grief,” she said. “But God brought us here as Ruths to bring His love and to share and serve and say: ‘Your people are My people.’ God says this is His land, and we have the privilege to serve in it and work the soil.”

“My time here has been full,” said Warwick West from Australia. “I will take back with me all the conversations I had with the Jewish people I met on the tour—not articles or newspapers or broadcasts but the words of the farmers, the soldiers, the children, local volunteers, and workers.”

“Scripture instructs us to support Israel, and sometimes the best time to support someone is when they’re grieving,” said Shawn Landis from Pennsylvania, who was making his fifth trip to Israel. “Friendship is not just about being there for the good times; it’s also about the rough times.”

“It was humbling and sobering to be here, to know what happened a few months ago and see Israeli resilience,” added Landis.

These impressions resonated with the group throughout the tour, and each one returned home with new perspectives, ready to be ambassadors and witnesses to their communities of all they saw, heard, and touched with their own hands in Israel.

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