Norwich church accepts Israeli food gifts for poor
In a gesture of community friendship, members of East Anglia Friends of Israel (EAFI) in Norwich united with similar groups across the UK to buy packaged Israeli food from local supermarkets to give away to less fortunate families over the winter season. Mike Wiltshire reports.
Although the East Anglia group was only formed in May 2016, this was in fact the second annual food donation by numerous ‘friends of Israel’ groups across the UK and nine other countries to Jewish and non-Jewish foodbanks and homeless shelters at a time of increased demand from families facing financial pressures.
In Norwich, at Alive Church, in Nelson Street, where Pastors Phil and Jo Thorne host the Community Café, they took delivery of food items donated by EAFI members.
“We’re delighted to accept these donated food gifts on behalf of the community,” said Pastor Phil.
This year's food distribution initiative – which began with an “IsrAction Day” in December - was endorsed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for the first time and was supported by Jewish and Christian community groups in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Germany, Belgium and Norway.
Across the UK, friends of Israel groups this year raised over £50,000 worth of food for those in need – “we reached the length and breadth of the country. It went way beyond expectations and has done a lot of good,” said national organisers. “The grassroots campaign is a chance to not only help people in need but also support Israel, and help beat boycotts of Israeli products.”
The East Anglia donation was presented by EAFI officers, the Rev Nigel Fox, Jill Gower and Paul McHenry at Alive Church.
Norwich pastors Phil and Jo Thorne also mentioned that they were ‘so delighted by an unforgettable first visit to Israel’ three months ago that they are encouraging other Christian leaders to visit the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in October, 2017. The Feast of Tabernacles – a celebration organised by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem that attracted 35,000 Christians and Jews from around 140 nations.
Phil said he was also encouraged to hear about the recent seasonal greeting by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who visited the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
“I'm so proud of our relations with our Christian brothers and sisters,” said Mr Netanyahu. “I wonder for many of you if you remember the experience you had when you first visited Israel, when you saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Via Dolorosa or the Sea of Galilee or Nazareth? I'm sure it moved you deeply. And it moves us deeply to have this bond with you because we all know that this land of Israel is the land of our common heritage.
“Yet, we also know that it is under attack these days, that the forces of intolerance, of barbarism that attack all religions attack Christians with particular vehemence. We stand with you and I'm proud of the fact that in Israel, this is the one place in the Middle East that the Christian community not only survives but thrives and it's no accident. It’s because of our commitment to religious freedom; it's because of our embrace of our heritage; it's because of our embrace of our common future.”
Pictured above, from left to right : Pastors Phil and Jo Thorne at Alive House, Norwich, with EAFI officers Rev. Nigel Fox, Paul McHenry and Jill Gower.