In Israel we call our facilities for the aged Beit Avot, which translates as “a home for our fathers.” Truth be told though, for most of our mothers and fathers, or grandmas and grandpas, leaving family and friends to live in close quarters with a new group of people in a different town doesn’t feel much like home. However, for the elderly Messianic Jews in Israel, their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) seems to be making a difference.
On the side of a hill nestled in a quiet backstreet just outside the old Arab quarter of Haifa, a group of fragile Messianic seniors live together in a Beit Avot called “Ebenezer.” The name was given by Rev. Harcourt Samuel, then-president of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (today known as the Messianic Jewish Alliance). It is taken from I Samuel 7:12 and means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Beit Ebenezer has been caring for the Messianic community’s elderly for well over 40 years. With a team of over 40, including six volunteers, the dedicated staff provides a safe, godly shelter for 28 of our aging brothers and sisters.
They include some of the few remaining Messianic Holocaust survivors in Israel as well as Jews and Arabs, all of whom served the gospel and the Messianic body in Israel their entire lives. Many suffered long years of persecution for their faith. All are faithful saints who were just too lonely, or too weak, to live on their own any longer.
One of them is 89-year-old Antoinette, whose friend died of cancer several years ago. “I would rather be in Jerusalem, my city,” she frowned. “There my life had meaning. I could care for others, pray for others and be a witness for Yeshua. Jerusalem is home for me, it is the only place I want to live, but Yeshua received me here in this old age home. It is not what I love, I sometimes feel lonely, but I am thankful.”
Antoinette served as a missionary in Togu where she taught sciences and the Bible to young Africans. After 20 years of dedicated missionary work, she still wondered, “How could I tell them that Jesus loves them when I was getting money every month from a Christian mission and they had nothing?” She left Africa, but the translucent, sun-spotted skin on her trembling arms still speaks of the harsh labor of a life dedicated to God’s work.
I longed to hear more from this seasoned woman, a saint who had given her life to serve Christ, but when you are nearly 90-years-old, you can take your time. There are no phones ringing, no schedules to meet, only a desire to say something meaningful that may be the last thing you ever say. So I waited, ignored my vibrating phone, and began wondering if she had forgotten the question.
Eventually, a wide grin appeared on her gentle face: “Every day I am thankful I can be with someone, anyone. Every day is a gift for me to share with someone else.”
The lunch bell rang, and Antoinette got up and moved slowly and as gracefully as she was able on her long, twig-thin legs, towards her regular spot in the dining room, next to her new friend. After a Hebrew song of thanksgiving to Yeshua, she was busy with lunch.
There was something sad watching these aging believers quietly live out their last days, even in a Messianic home. After lunch, Antoinette placed a small note in my hand, written in Hebrew, in that jerky, scribbly way unique to the elderly.
“I only wanted to do God’s will,” she wrote. “Now I am here, and I am learning to appreciate every day as God’s gift to me. It is enough. I have lived a long, full life. I am ready to go.”
‘EVERY DAY IS GOD’S GIFT’ says 89-year-old Antoinette. She is thankful for a long life
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.