Tuesday morning, March 26, we were sitting in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the US Capital, listening to Bibi speak, not as scheduled live in DC, but remotely from Israeli, as he was called back to deal with more missiles launched from Gaza. At AIPAC we heard 90% of a powerful speech, which had technical interruptions, possibly from continuous hacking. None-the-less, his message came through of Israel, along with its American Israel supporters, standing up to challenges to the Jewish State in which all its citizens are “first class citizens.” AIPAC provided a forum for 18,000 American supporters of Israel to learn first hand from Israel experts, and share their concerns in the halls of Congress later in the day.
While back in Rehovot, Israel, a group of Christian Zionists are finishing two weeks of their “vacation-time” washing pots, cleaning halls, organizing hazardous chemicals, and whatever their Israeli supervisors at the Kaplan Medical Center ask them to do. They smile in service to the Jewish State, from the moment they left the US on March 13, till the end of their service at Kaplan on March 28. These Christian volunteers are part of the “Hessed” mission of Friends of Israel Ministries (FOI), based in Bellmawr, NJ, which reaches out to a half million Christian believers around the world with their “Israel My Glory” magazine.
Annette Sutter is cleaning pots in the Kaplan dining hall kitchen. She is a retired educator, and wife of William Sutter, former Executive Director of FOI, and is on her 9th mission to Kaplan in Rehovot. When Annette came on the first “Hessed” mission, Israelis were wary of these American Christians. Why were they coming, and what was the nefarious purpose to their mission?
Each year since Israelis at Kaplan now joyfully anticipate members of the “Hessed” mission. They are welcomed with open hearts and gratitude for coming in person to share their love and support of Israel. The Christian volunteers are doing menial but meaningful tasks, often when Jewish tourists would not come to Israel for fear of nearby missiles from Gaza.
Jerome Baxley, (pictured) a Dothan, Alabama businessman is on his sixth “Hessed” mission to Israel. Jerome missed coming a few times previously because of serious back and knee problems. He returns to the States for upcoming ankle surgery, but that did not stop him from fulfilling his personal mission of support for Israel.
Jerome is a key leader for Israel causes in the American Israel support community. He is an Executive Committee member of the American Friends of Kaplan Medical Center (AFKMC) and also leads AFKMC as the national Co-Chair of the “Brick-By-Brick” campaign to build the largest hi-tech Cardiac Center on the campus of Rehovot’s Kaplan hospital.
Jerome’s home community of Dothan, Alabama recently made headlines in the Washington Post. Charges of Anti-Semitism in rural America came out in the article entitled: “A millionaire paid Jews to move to a small town in Alabama. Now, a couple struggle with their choice.”
Jerome countered with his own article detailing Christian love for Jews and Israel with a piece published in the Dothan Eagle. “A medical partnership in Israel could benefit all involved.”
In his own words:
“After reading the seemly negative articles about how the people of Dothan feel about our Jewish neighbors, I would like to give a different perspective. I can’t speak for all the people of Dothan, but I can speak from the evangelical Christian Zionist viewpoint because I am one, and I know what the scriptures say about how to treat God’s chosen people. Regardless of your religious or ethnic background, God’s Word does not change to suit your opinion. It’s only his opinion that counts.”
“In 2012, I was with the first group of approximately 24 men and women from all over the United States who traveled to Rehovot, Israel, and did voluntary work at Kaplan Medical Center for two weeks. We didn’t do any medical-related work, but cleaned walls, floors, bathrooms, supply shelves, bed pans, and hospital beds, and worked in the kitchen feeding hundreds of staff in the hospital. Rehovot is just north of the Gaza strip and Kaplan Medical Center is responsible for caring for more than a million of the people — Jews and Palestinians alike — who live in this region.”
“I have been going to Kaplan Medical Center every year since and will return again in March of this year for another two-week period. Not to evangelize, not to talk about my religion, but just to show my love and in return God’s love for his people. ”
“How can the City of Dothan show our love and support for our Jewish neighbors? Kaplan has some of the best world renowned heart doctors and most up to date medical equipment in the world today, but this is housed in run-down 1950’s wooden buildings. Kaplan is in much need of a new hospital, but not just a normal hospital; because of the close proximity to Gaza, this hospital has to be built to withstand rocket attacks that are constant threats to the people in this region. I know because I’ve been there when rockets landed just a few miles away. We could hear and feel the explosions. Such is life in Israel.”
“I wish the churches in Dothan would get together and help furnish this hospital with a building to house the cardiac center. I’ve talked to Dr. Jacob George, who is the Director of Cardiology at Kaplan and one of the leading heart research doctors in the world. He will be getting a Nobel Prize one day for his work in this field. If the City of Dothan would partner with Kaplan Medical Center and help them, we could get Dr. George to come to our city and help our hospitals here become the center of cardiology in the United States. Did I mention that God said he would bless those who bless his children?
“If our pastors or city officials or anyone wishes to help with this, I would appreciate it if you would reach out to me. ”
As we met at AIPAC in DC to support Israel, Christian Zionists are our “boots on the ground” who want to let the world know that Israel, and Israelis, are loved. Jerome Baxley also wants people to know that Israelis achieve hi-tech medical marvels for the world at places like the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot.