Helping to help in Gaza
MCC partners respond in first days of violence in Palestine and Israel.
Editor’s note: This story was written in late November 2023, based upon the most recent information from MCC partners at the time. Please click here for the latest updates on our response. All photos courtesy of MCC partners.
The first thing they said was, “Can you help us help?” recalls Sarah Funkhouser, who, together with her husband, Seth Malone, serve as MCC representatives for Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
MCC staff were reaching out to MCC partners in Gaza to see if they were safe in the wake of days of bombing and strikes by the Israeli military following a series of coordinated attacks on Israelis by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023.
When staff reached MCC partner Al-Najd Developmental Forum, Funkhouser almost couldn’t believe that amid all that was happening around them, staff and volunteers were already focusing on how they could best aid their neighbors.
“It’s incredible,” Funkhouser says. Without a way for food or supplies to enter Gaza, “It’s really only possible to respond with trusted, existing partners. MCC being able to support Al-Najd in providing food baskets and bedding to families who have been displaced or have had their homes destroyed, there’s just no way to do it if we didn’t have partners like them already working there and being able to access local resources.”
By mid-November, despite the incredible danger around them, Al-Najd had distributed bedding to 250 families and emergency food to 550 families, providing urgently needed assistance to Ahmad Abu Nahel and others. “I prayed from my heart for help,” Nahel says. “You are the blessing God sends; my family had nothing to eat but we have now.”
I prayed from my heart for help. You are the blessing God sends; my family had nothing to eat but we have now.”
Ahmad Abu Nahel
MCC, which has worked in the region since 1949, laments the loss of lives, Israeli and Palestinian, and invites people to pray for all who are suffering and to act for peace and an end to the bloodshed.
As this issue goes to press in November, conflict continues. And now, as in past conflicts, partners in Gaza are responding to urgent needs as they can in the face of almost unimaginable losses and dangers, while other partners throughout the region continue their work as they are able in the face of uncertainty and unrest.
For the sake of those MCC partners in Palestine and Israel and the communities they are serving, Malone pleads for MCC supporters to remain hopeful, no matter how dire the news may be.
“Our partners need your hope,” he says. “We need your hope for us and for them. So giving is a sign of hope. Getting involved with MCC’s action alerts, that’s a sign of hope.”
And remember Palestinian Christians in your prayers, invites Pastor Ashraf Tannous, who leads Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, just outside Bethlehem.
Asked what message he has for Christians in Canada and the U.S., and what is he praying for, Pastor Ashraf Tannous answers in the words of an Arabic song that mean:
Lord of peace, rain on us, peace.
Lord of peace, give our hearts peace.
Lord of peace, rain on us, peace.
Lord of peace, give our country peace.
Hear more from Pastor Ashraf Tannous in this video:
When asked what he hopes that Christians outside Palestine know, Tannous stresses remembering the kinship shared among all brothers and sisters in Christ.
“We are normal human beings. We are created in the image of God, in God’s own likeness, male and female. Please don’t look at us as people who don’t deserve to live,” he says. “I want to remind everyone, and especially the Christian brothers and sisters all over the world, that we are all praying the Lord’s Prayer.”
The first words that we all say are “Our Father,” he notes. “This means that the moment we say ‘Our Father,’ there are relationships created. The first relationship is that we are God’s children . . . then we are brothers and sisters.”
The cross that Palestinian Christians are carrying now is very heavy, he notes. “Do you know why? Because as Paul said, if . . . an organ of your body is in pain, the whole body is in pain. As Palestinians, brothers and sisters here, we are in pain.”
We at MCC invite you to join us in praying for peace, for our partners and all who suffer and mourn in both Palestine and Israel and to consider how you can donate or sign on to action alerts calling for an end to the violence.
What you can do
Go to mcc.org/Palestine-Israel to explore how you can:
- Pray for an end to violence
- Give to our response now
- Advocate for peace
- Learn more through stories, videos and a podcast
Header photo caption: Firas Hamlawi, right, a volunteer, and staff member Rifqah Hamlawi, center, of MCC partner Al-Najd Developmental Forum distribute food packages to families (recipient not named for security reasons).
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