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The town of Sderot lies just two kilometres from the Gaza border. From 2000 to 2008 the city was pelted with 10,000 rockets launched from Gaza. When the alarm sounded, which often happened several times a day, everyone had 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter before the rocket hit. Thousands of residents, who could afford to, moved out, the children were traumatised, hundreds of businesses were forced to close and house prices halved. The poorest had no choice but to remain. In 2009, when the Israeli army began operation ‘Cast Lead’ to deal with the problem, one organisation moved in!

Hands of Mercy, an Israeli non-profit, humanitarian aid outreach organisation established in 1992, began in Jerusalem but, seeing the needs in this war-torn city, re-located in 2009 to provide comfort and support. We assist injured soldiers and victims of terror, of whom there was an overabundance in Sderot. Since 2009, we have developed many creative projects to meet the needs of our war-battered community: a soup kitchen and school sandwiches for hungry children and families, an adoption sponsorship program and home industry projects for needy families, bomb-shelter boxes, a crisis preparedness project and a strategic agricultural project to prepare for difficult days ahead.

Our compassion is especially expressed in personal visits to hospitals and homes to support the seriously injured and their families in times of crisis and difficulty. Our ‘Hands of Mercy’ team offer emotional and spiritual encouragement, especially needed during these first crucial days of recovery. Through these expressions of deep compassion and concern, close relationships often begin and last for years. Our compassion ministry is contacted at times by local social workers and military liaison representatives, and we offer assistance to overwhelmed government agencies in their response to these family crises. Whenever possible, we are honoured to help. In addition, we offer counselling and a prayer network, which provides comfort and encouragement so desperately needed throughout the long and difficult period of recovery. We work closely with ‘The Joseph Project’ in Jerusalem and are often able to provide assistance for other ministries reaching out to the poor.

Our home industry project has developed to provide funds for needy victim mothers and their families. A variety of creative work projects enables them to earn much-needed income, while also providing engaging work-therapy for their youth. In co-operation with the Sderot municipality we are also offering dental assistance to needy people. We have begun growing nutritious food in hi-tech greenhouses to provide for future needs. We are always grateful for the volunteers and supporters without whom the work could not be done.

Yeshi Reinhardt is the director of Hands of Mercy. Contact [ at ]

Day 3: Tuesday Sept 11