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Daily bread in a war zone


WORLD Radio - Daily bread in a war zone

A Christian Israeli helps feed Israeli Defense Force soldiers

Israel Iluz shows where a Hezbollah missile struck his neighborhood in Kiryat Shmona. Photo by Jill Nelson

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Daily bread in a war zone.

Israel’s war against Hamas is now in its fourth month. And more than 250,000 Israelis have evacuated their homes because of repeated rocket attacks.

REICHARD: Most of the evacuation zone lies near the Gaza Strip where Hamas killed 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostage. Israel also evacuated more than 40 cities and villages in northern Israel. Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel from just across the border.

BROWN: But some Israelis decided to stay put.

WORLD correspondent Jill Nelson was in Israel in December. She brings us this story about a ministry to soldiers on the frontlines.

AUDIO: [Sound from kitchen]

JILL NELSON, REPORTER: It’s almost meal delivery time at Congregation Kiryat Shmona. Pastor Israel Iluz carries a large pot of food from the church’s kitchen to a long table. Three women in aprons help dish the food into containers.

Today’s menu is ground beef, vegetables and rice. Iluz’s 21-year-old daughter Gabi sings as she tallies the last crate of meals.

Around a dozen of the church’s members ignored Israel’s call to evacuate Kiryat Shmona after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Iluz says they decided to stay and convert his son’s new restaurant into a ministry.

ILUZ: We took it as a church project to feed the soldiers. Today, between 300 and 500 dishes every day.

The Israeli army engages almost daily in skirmishes with Hezbollah across the border in Lebanon. The country wasn’t prepared for the surge of soldiers called up when Hezbollah increased its rocket attacks after Oct. 7.

ILUZ: Nobody was organized—not the army, not the country. It catched us by surprise. So food was needed. Soldiers were hungry.

The church has a bomb shelter, and so do most homes. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system shoots down most of Hezbollah’s rockets, but some get through.

On his way to deliver meals, Iluz stops at one place where the Iron Dome failed. It’s just up the street from his home.

ILUZ: This is where the rocket hit. Obviously this one got totally burned.

He points to an incinerated car.

Iluz shares his faith journey as he continues to drive. He grew up in an orthodox Jewish family. His father was a rabbi and Iluz attended a religious school.

He decided to move from Israel to South Africa in 1991 when he was 28 years old. During his first few years abroad, he crossed paths with one Christian after another.

ILUZ: And everybody’s talking to me about Jesus. And somebody gave me a New Testament in Hebrew, and that's kind of, okay, I'll take it. Because it was a guy that I wanted to do business with, so okay I'll take it.

He didn’t touch the Bible for months. But eventually Iluz became curious. He associated Christians with the Holocaust.

ILUZ: I wonder why they hate us so much, those Christians. Where is this hatred come from? And then I start to read, and for my surprise, I see Jewish name, Jewish places. I grew up in the Galilee. I know the Galilee. And slowly I start to ask questions.

He took those questions to a Jewish rabbi in South Africa.

ILUZ: Can it be that we missed the messiah of Israel? I said to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, can it be that Yeshua is the messiah? Show me.

One day in 1996, he prayed and asked the God of Israel to reveal himself. Suddenly, the prophecies made sense and he saw beauty in creation. Iluz says the Bible came alive after his conversion.

He moved back home 17 years later to do ministry in Israel.

He has a quiet confidence as we drive closer to enemy territory. Even when we hear Israeli tanks firing.

The guards at the first base turn us away. It’s too risky to deliver meals at this location up in the foothills. Iluz says Hezbollah forces are just over the hill.

ILUZ: Actually yesterday and today, there was a lot of rockets Hezbollah started shooting even more, further and even to civilians they are shooting.

But the next three bases are in safer territory. He unloads boxes of meals, and some of the soldiers break open the containers and begin to eat. They gather around folding tables, tanks parked nearby.

AUDIO: [Soldiers saying thank you in Hebrew and English]

One of the soldiers shares his gratitude.

SOLDIER: It really helps us because it’s a bit tense here. We don’t see our homes much and now with the winter, it’s very nice to get some warm food and support.

Iluz says most residents of Kiryat Shmona won’t return home until Hezbollah’s bases have been dismantled. The Iranian-backed terrorist group has threatened to carry out an attack similar to Hamas’. Like Hamas, they’ve built a network of tunnels stretching across Israel’s border with Lebanon.

AUDIO: [Sounds from kitchen]

But the church’s ministry continues. Iluz says they’ve found purpose serving others during a time of war.

ILUZ: And I praise God, instead of worrying about what’s going on, we are busy giving as Jesus basically did. You know he fed the multitudes. And I think this is our job.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson in Kiryat Shmona, Israel.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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