PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, November 29th. This is WORLD Radio. Thanks for listening! Good morning. I’m Paul Butler.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: caring for bodies and souls in Israel. After Hamas attacked on October 7th, Israel faced an additional effect that didn’t make much news: food became scarce and supply chains couldn’t keep up
BUTLER: But a U.S.-based ministry is working to help meet the demand. Texas Baptist Men has been training Kosher cooks in Israel for years. And now, their volunteers are ready for a war zone.
WORLD Radio Reporting Producer Mary Muncy has the story.
SOUND: [Sound from hospital]
MARY MUNCY, REPORTER: In late October, Doug Hall is unloading boxes full of falafel sandwiches, setting them out on a table draped with Israeli flags.
He was outside an ER in Israel—about ten miles from Gaza.
It was hot. Hall and another volunteer were outside a clean, underground entrance. Ambulances went in and out every few minutes.
HALL: We would tell them that we were with TBM. And that didn't really mean a lot.
So Hall told them TBM—or Texas Baptist Men—is a Christian volunteer organization that feeds people.
HALL: And I think many times that's when the light bulb went off, you know. They would respond “Oh, you're Christian? And you’re volunteers? You volunteered to come over here during a war?”
Hall started setting out 800 “falafel hoagies” for doctors, soldiers, or anyone else who needed them.
HALL: We'd have a brief visit with them and tell them thank you for serving and and have brief interactions with them.
Six or eight Israeli women also stood by the table. They are there with a different volunteer organization, serving pastries and coffee.
All the women either had children or grandchildren serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
HALL: One of which had three children serving in the military.
One of her sons was home when the fighting started and went out to help the wounded.
HALL: She told us that he had to return to her apartment two different times to change out of his uniform and to put on a new uniform because it was so bloody.
Hall met those ladies during his first week in Israel in late October. He spent two weeks there, making and distributing food to people who needed it. Everyone he met had a connection to the conflict in Gaza. People didn’t smile much. It seemed like there was a weight in the air. But he says those hot meals were a bright spot, something to help them hold up under that weight.
That’s why TBM sent the first team in early October, just after Hamas attacked on October 7th.
HALL: The day the war broke out, I really felt a pull to be involved in the relief of that somehow.
TBM’s disaster relief ministry started back in the 60s. A big part of its mission is mass feeding and they’ve gotten really good at it.
SOUND: [Food prep]
Hall was part of the second team to arrive in Israel.
They have enough room on their base for 20 people sleeping in small buildings around a small grassy area. Their mobile kitchens are nearby where those 20 people, plus a few Israeli volunteers, make two to three thousand meals a day.
HALL: We get up about 5:30, 5:45 we have a devotion at six. And then after that, we kind of line out the day. We figure out how many meals we needed to prepare.
Their generators kicked on around 6:45 and then they started food prep. By 1:30 or 2, they were ready to deliver falafel sandwiches.
They took the meals to places like hospitals and churches for distribution. But the journey often had unexpected stops.
SOUND: [Rocket warning]
HALL: If there is a rocket launched into Israeli air airspace, the radio is interrupted kind of like we have weather alerts here. They have rocket alerts. So our guides would listen to that and there were several times that we had to pull off the road.
Actually, it was a pretty regular occurrence.
HALL: We were instructed early on to lay down. But after we did that one or two times, and we watched cars going by and with their phones out the window, filming the crazy Americans, we-we bowed to peer pressure.
They still stopped and got out of the van, just in case it was targeted, but often, locals just kept driving past them.
HALL: It's just another day in the life of them. You know, that's that that was the great juxtaposition of their reality.
Hall says none of the volunteers felt like they were ever in imminent danger, but they also never felt completely safe either.
HALL: There's a weight to everywhere we went. So that was part of that even when we were in safe places. You just knew you were not completely, 100 percent safe all the time.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t joy.
HALL: We had a break one afternoon and went out for a walk in Jerusalem.
The team stopped at a gelato shop and sat down. Just behind them, a group of five or six Israeli people came in—several wearing machine guns.
AUDIO: [Singing “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew]
One of them went and bought a gelato cake and they started a birthday party for a seven-year-old boy.
HALL: They all grabbed a chair and raised him up in the air and they were singing happy birthday to him in Hebrew. And it was just such a paradox of happiness and joy, and in the middle of the situation, they're wearing machine guns.
The party ended, and the team left, but the image stayed with them.
SOUND: [Making sandwiches]
Back at the base, the generators were a constant as they prepared the food and handed it out.
While Hall was there, he prepared tens of thousands of sandwiches and served hundreds of people.
But he remembers one soldier in particular. The man came up to the table at their base and the volunteers gave him two sandwiches. He started to walk away.
HALL: And he turned around, and walked back, stopped everyone and said, Hey, I just want to tell you guys something. So we all stopped what we were doing, turned and looked at him. And he said, I want to say thank you, on behalf of all of us, you give us strength to do our mission.
Hall says that strength isn’t just physical, it’s brightening their day in a small way. A little glimpse of hope.
HALL: Our job is there to spread the joy of Jesus while we're there. So that was what we were doing.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy.
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