Thousands of Palestinian rockets have fallen on the southern Israel town of Sderot causing most of the local population to lose hope and to live in understandable fear. But a small band of Israeli believers in Jesus say their trust in God is keeping them strong.
“Fifteen seconds before you called there was a siren,” Dina Gelfand told Israel Today on Tuesday, during the alleged “cease-fire” between Israel and Gaza. “A rocket just landed in an open field.”
Gelfand is a pastor of a small Messianic congregation in the rocket-battered city where 15 to 20 believers meet four times a week in an apartment. Sirens often interrupt their meetings, so they pray for God’s protection, and frequently quote Psalm 91.
“We have peace in our hearts,” Gelfand said. “For people who don’t believe in Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus), the situation here is too hard to deal with.”
Still, the community is not immune from dealing with the very real dangers of living in a community under siege. In April, the congregation’s apartment suffered a direct hit by a rocket while a woman was inside. Miraculously the woman was completely unscathed.
Israel complied with international demands to uproot 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza in 2005 in order to placate the Palestinians, but attacks on Sderot and the surrounding areas continued. Since 2001, nearly 8,000 rockets and mortar shells, most of them fired since Israel left Gaza, have caused 15 deaths and left 433 Israelis maimed and wounded.
Businesses in southern Israel have to deal with heavy economic losses, while one study found that 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another study showed that up to 94 percent of Sderot children are exhibiting symptoms of the condition.
Just like the rest of Sderot and southern Israeli residents, Gelfand quickly educated herself to live with this situation: She knows where to run for safety, not to stand near windows, and preferably not live on a top floor of a tall building.
She empathizes with the parents and elderly. An elderly woman who lives in the apartment above her has further to get out of the building and then must take pills for heart pain after nearly every siren. And at night there tend to be many.
“You hear yelling from windows: ‘Mom!’ and parents yelling for their sons and daughters,” Gelfand said. “It’s the absolute worst for parents.”
But Gelfand has no plans to leave Sderot. “This is my place. I know this is from God,” she said. “I love Sderot, 100 percent. I feel I’m home.”
Gelfand, 33, immigrated to Israel from Latvia in 1999. She said it is difficult to openly share her faith but the congregation helps the community where it can practically and by praying with families.
Ironically, one of the congregation’s main prayers is for the Palestinians of Gaza. Gelfand plans to contact believers in Gaza to express their love and prayers for them, that they are all on in the blood of Jesus.
“There will be no peace is there is no peace in Gaza,” Gelfand said. “They are also suffering, and suffering from worse things than we are.”