Shevet Sunday - A nervous-making middle ground

Dear coworkers,

When I wrote you last week, the year was just turning and two little ones were in the air on their way to Israel from Kurdistan. As a result of the Iraqi government's ban on international flights to and from Kurdistan, what was once a four-hour, two-flight trip now extends to at least 12 hours and three flights.

And that proved to be too long for six-week-old baby Ster, an emergency case of transposition of the great arteries. She tolerated the first two flights well enough, but while waiting in the Amman airport for the last and final leg of the journey she collapsed. Ster was rushed to a local hospital and, after some delay and confusion, resuscitated and put on artificial respiration. Then she was transferred by ambulances all the way to Tel Aviv.

She arrived there only five hours later than if she'd caught the last flight; again she was resuscitated and then rushed in by Israeli doctors for an emergency catheterization. Before the day ended, however, our loving Father in heaven allowed this little sparrow to fall to the ground. You can follow the whole story on Ster's page on our website.


Her young mom was devastated to lose her only child, born after two previous pregnancies miscarried. The other Kurdish mothers in Israel joined with our community in coming around Ster's mother that night to comfort her; then, again due to the flight ban, we had another two days with her in Jordan waiting to arrange transportation back home.

Was it a failure? Could we have done better? There are definitely lessons to be learned, by the doctors in Kurdistan, by our community, by the hospital in Jordan, and by the ambulance service. And voices should be raised against the senseless ban on flights to Kurdistan.

And yet--in the end we believe from the words of Jesus that it is our Father who decides when a life will end. And he has the power to redeem everything, including death. Already in just a few days with the mother we could see her heart opening up. She saw with her own eyes that her precious daughter was not alone and was not unloved, as so many people tried to help her.

ster mother leaving

Let's keep this family in our prayers; I'll be visiting them in Kurdistan later this week, God willing, and will update you next Sunday.

Also when I wrote last week we still needed $32,147 toward our year-end hospital commitments. Thank God, that is now down to $17,894. We're in talks with our partners at Save a Child's Heart/Wolfson Medical Center this week to confirm these numbers, which are lower than expected because some other donors have given directly to SACH for our children. This may mean that going forward we can focus more on out-of-hospital expenses for caring for families, and only paying greater hospital expenses when sending the urgent children that Wolfson can't accept over to the Sheba Medical Center. Prayer will be appreciated also for this partnership of 21 years; as the Wolfson director kindly wrote us this week, "I know how well you have been working together with SACH over so many years that has resulted in saving so much lives of children from the region."

And finally, this week's must-read article is a surprisingly nuanced discussion from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of whether a Jew can believe in Jesus. Here's an excerpt:

So while rabbis generally encourage Jewish practice, even an Orthodox rabbi will say that a Jew who now attends church is just as Jewish as, well, the rabbi. That also may be why one-third of American Jews say someone can believe in Jesus and still be Jewish.

“Jewishness is about neither religion nor race,” writes Rabbi Zalman Nelson at, the website of the Hasidic outreach movement. “Unlike a race, you can get in, but unlike religion, once you’re in you can’t get out...”

Jews tend to get more exercised over Messianic Jews than mere apostates because Messianic Jews inhabit a nervous-making middle ground, suggesting Judaism and Christianity are theologically compatible.

Jonathan for Shevet Achim

"Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133).