Christians donate $500,000 to Israeli towns devastated by Hamas attack

Passages donated $500,000 to two southern Israel communities destroyed in the Hamas massacre on October 7. 

The Christian organization that provides free, “Birthright-style” trips for Christian students delivered it to Netiv HaAsara and Kfar Aza this week during a solidarity mission to the South.

They also brought each community a plaque to express their love and solidarity during these difficult times.

According to Paul Weber, Passages’ chief advancement officer, the funds will be used to provide immediate psychological counseling for some of the younger members of the communities to help them try and deal with the horrors of that day. In addition, some of the funds will be earmarked for future memorial projects.

“These are two places where we have taken over 11,000 college students on Passages trips in the last eight years,” said Passages CEO Scott Phillips. “In these communities live our friends, people we know, people we work with, people our students and alumni have interacted with.”

The organization also paid for more than two dozen alums and other supporters to travel to Israel to make the donations. They arrived on Friday.

Passages visitors stand with their donation plaque in Netiv HaAsara. (credit: MAAYAN HOFFMAN)

A connection as Christians

Moreover, he said, “God commanded us to stand with Israel, so I think it is an intrinsic motivation to come here, even if there is a war.”

The funds were raised from American donors, Weber said – mostly via micro-donations that eventually added up. When Passages embarked on the campaign to help the communities, it committed that not a single dollar would stay with the organization but be funneled directly to the Israelis in need. Moreover, with the gifts, he said, “We have committed to bringing our future students to these communities year after year, always to remember what took place here, and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.”

In Netiv HaAsara, the Passages delegation visited the cemetery, where they were briefed by Raz Shmilovich, who is not only a resident of the destroyed community but served as a Passages tour guide before the attack. He told the visitors stories of all those who were murdered that day and then took them into the moshav, where they were shown how Hamas terrorists infiltrated and attacked.

“The terrorists went door to door and house to house, looked people in the eye and shot them,” Shmilovich recalled. “We did not choose this war. We woke up one morning to Hamas terrorists trying to eliminate us.”

He said that he was among the first responders on the moshav and that he saw “horror pictures” – pieces of his friend’s bodies, relics destroyed.

“But I can live with that,” he said. “I cannot live with the image of fully armed terrorists just walking into our community and shooting at us.”

A trip to Kfar Aza

The group also went to Kfar Aza and saw some of the areas that were hardest hit, as well as to the memorial for the victims of the Nova Festival.

“After October 7, the Jewish community looked around for friends and allies. The Christian community showed up, and they keep showing up, not just in word, but deed,” said Rivka Kidron, Passages co-founder and board member. “These are communities which Passages students visit on every trip. They lifted and supported our students; now, we must support them. Our students will continue coming here to bear witness to this tragedy and stand alongside the State of Israel and the Jewish People, especially in the most difficult times.”

Alumnus David Peters expressed similar sentiments. He and his wife traveled from Nashville to Israel “ to support our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

He said that their goal was to return home and speak the truth against mainstream, anti-Israel media.

“There are so many lies and deception, and it’s different when your boots are on the ground,” he said. “I believe that lies and deception will eventually fail, and the truth will be revealed. And so if you stay steady, stay the course, keep speaking the truth, and pray, eyes will be opened.

“We live in a world where we call evil good and good evil, especially in my generation, the younger generation,” Peters continued. “We just want to speak the truth and call evil evil and good good.”

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