Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Bicycles to bless Israeli kids


Jonathan Feldstein

The bikes arrive. Each child's name is written on paper and placed on the handlebars.

Before the wildfires were extinguished in Israel last month, organizations and communities throughout Israel stepped up to help the more than 3500 people who had been evacuated and displaced from their homes, including residents of Mevo Modiin, a community that was all but completely burned down.

Calls to provide clothes and other supplies were responded to so much so that by the next morning, almost as quickly as the fire started and calls were issued to help, people were turned away because of the generous response.

Watching the disaster unfold, board members of the Genesis 123 Foundation and RunforZion.com exchanged emails and text messages asking how they could help. With the mission to build bridges between Jews and Christians in ways that are unique and meaningful, this seemed like more than an opportunity but an obligation.

To make an impact that would be most strategic, the children's' welfare came to mind. If 3500 were displaced and many lost their homes and all their belongings, intuitively at least 2000-2500 were children. Their trauma would be severe. It would also be exacerbated by their parents' trauma and loss. Like all adults people have the ability to deal with trauma differently. Parents faced the dual burden of rebuilding their lives and helping the children.

The Genesis 123 Foundation and Run for Zion launched a campaign to raise money to replace toys of children who had lost everything. The thinking was that helping to make the kids happy would also be a respite and relief for the parents. Unlike others responding impulsively, the Genesis 123 Foundation held back from jumping in right away, waiting to see what the actual needs were.

In the end, the community prioritized the need for new bicycles for the children.

This past week they realized that goal with three separate deliveries of dozens of bicycles to those whose homes and belongings had been lost. The final delivery is set for this week. There was great and unique partnership in that the donations came from Christians around the world, and that the store from which the new bikes were purchased reduced the prices to just above cost.

One of the most exciting moments was to give a credit card to pay for the bikes on behalf of the Genesis 123 Foundation and Run for Zion, knowing that the store was partnering as well, and how much this would make the children happy. Especially as summer vacation was beginning, giving the kids new bikes restored a sense of normalcy and enabled them to start their vacations happily.

With the first delivery of more than two-dozen bikes, how important and impactful this was to the kids, as well as their parents, became vivid. Children lined up with anticipation outside the door of the room in where the bikes had been kept. Names were affixed to each bicycle so that the kids could find their own bikes set aside for them. As soon as the doors opened, they ran in.

The kids' smiles were only overshadowed by the parents' effusive gratitude.

This campaign and the fulfillment of it in such a direct way uplifted the spirits of the children who received new bikes, and their parents.

The kids receiving the new bikes not only spoke about how important it was to them, but they shared what happened to their old bikes. Many had pictures of the remains of these, the charred metal frames barely recognizable.

One mother asked to share her appreciation, "I'm so grateful because I know how much fun they're going to have. Their (old) bikes are just burnt frames. I'm so excited for them."

Underscoring the sense of normalcy this restored, within an hour of the bikes being distributed dozens of kids pedaled freely throughout the community that's become their temporary home. Also normal, two kids fell, wiping out as they rode across a wet surface. As a perfect metaphor for how we pray their families will recover, they fell, got scraped up a bit, but got back up and rode away. All normal, all good. Mission accomplished.

The Genesis 123 Foundation is committed to raising the balance of what's needed to buy remaining bikes for those who didn't get one, and helmets as parents requested. In fact, in a leap of faith that people would continue to step up to donate more, when presented with the bill that was hundreds of shekels more than what had been raised, the Genesis 123 Foundation agreed to pay it all because it had to be done, and knowing that others would understand that and join as well. To make a donation, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/replacing-toys-for-israeli-children

Jonathan Feldstein

The children rush in to claim their bikes.

U.S.-born and educated Jonathan Feldstein immigrated to Israel in 2004. Throughout his life and career, he has fellowshipped with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Standing With Israel at charismanews.com and other prominent web sites. He can be reached at firstpersonisrael@gmail.com.


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