A coalition of faith-based organizations has announced it is adopting an Israeli community as its sister city in a bid to rescue and restore "Israel's breadbasket" – a vital agricultural region between Gaza and the Negev Desert that accounts for over 60% of Israel's agricultural produce.
Known as Ein Habesor, this region is referenced in the Bible in 1 Samuel 30 as "the brook of Bezor," where the future King David and his warriors briefly rested and regrouped before routing their ancient foes the Amalekites.
Due to the violent upheaval and deadly danger caused by Hamas in the region, the crops there are at serious risk.
"Right now Israel's vital produce is just rotting on the vine, and if we don't turn things around soon it could become economically devastating for the whole region," Todd Lamphere, vice president of Governmental Relations for CityServe International said in a press release.
CityServe is a nonprofit collaborative network of churches known for providing disaster relief both domestically and across the globe.
Lamphere has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Ein Habesor on behalf of CityServe and the other three coalition partners that are adopting the remote village. The other partners include the National Faith Advisory Board, Intercessors for America, and Paula White Ministries.
"We're going to do whatever it takes to get our new sister city Ein Habesor back up and running again," Lamphere added. "Arabs and Jews alike depend on that fresh produce. This great need transcends nationality, religion, and a host of complexities in the region."
Ein Habesor is a special type of Israeli agricultural community called a "moshav," strategically positioned just 3 miles east of Gaza. It's home to about 320 families and over 1,100 residents, including 460 children. The community was established in 1982.
Dozens of residents in the small community fought back against Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack with only four M16 assault rifles and a few pistols between them, The Times of Israel reported. The moshav's civil defense unit made up of community members, put up such bold resistance during the ensuing firefight that not one terrorist entered the moshav. The defense team was able to accomplish this feat without a single loss of life for anyone in the community.
Dr. Yftach Gepner, a resident of the community and a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University's Medicine Faculty, later told The Times of Israel he was holding a rock during the gun battle because he had no weapon. His brother, Eldad, 48, was wounded in the shoulder but is recovering.
However, just a few days later, 90% of Ein Habezor's residents evacuated south to Eilat and are now living internally displaced in hotels throughout Israel. This means crops that would normally be harvested have been left unattended and are withering in fields, the nonprofit organization reported.
Lamphere warned unless something is done soon, food prices throughout Israel are expected to rise sharply.
Uri Steinberg, the director of CityServe Israel, traveled from Tel Aviv to join Lamphere on the mission to determine Ein Habesor's most urgent needs.
"These are resilient people," Steinberg said. "It feels like we're witnessing a modern-day biblical miracle. Even amidst this catastrophe, the spirit of the residents here is truly amazing."
The coalition of U.S. faith-based groups said it would take a sustained effort to get the people of Ein Habesor whatever they need – clothes, relief supplies, and equipment – to resume their farming operations.
"This community plays a vital role in feeding all the people of the region, regardless of ethnic background," Lamphere said. "Saving Ein Habesor is a cause everyone can celebrate."
Gepner called his community a "beautiful place," according to The Times of Israel.
"I live here with all the friends I've known since kindergarten. I have a beautiful home," the doctor told the outlet. Until the Hamas invasion on October 7, there was a feeling that there was no safer place in the world, he said. "My 8-year-old can walk alone at night with zero concern that something will happen."
To learn more about CityServe and its plans to help Ein Habesor, visit Operation Save Israel.