Ha Miflaht (The Refugee)…is a place of refuge, a sanctuary, a safe haven. It is a house, but more than a house, it is a home. It is a home that has been set up for the lonely soldiers “hyalim bodedim”, and also new immigrants “olim hadashim”, that have come to make Israel their new home.

 hamiflaht outside


Scott and Theresa Johnson lived in Seymour Tennessee, nestled in the hills of the Smokey Mountains. In 2000 the Johnsons arrived in Israel to do volunteer work for the ICEJ. Scott was head of the logistics department for almost four years. This position allowed him a lot of contact with the Israeli public, vendors, contractors, even some military personnel. He did everything, from maintenance, moving personnel, to building the sets used for the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacle celebration. From there he went on to volunteer for JSC, for four years, where his duties involved working with even more Israeli’s, especially Lone Soldiers and New Immigrants. As for Theresa, she did five years of volunteer service with the ICEJ where she headed up the costume department; making 1000’s of garments for the Feast of Tabernacles celebration the ICEJ sponsors each year during Succoth. During these very important years they were making relationships with the Israeli people becoming acclimated into Israeli culture. The Johnsons were gaining a real love for the people in the land, The Lord’s Festivals “Leviticus 23: 1,2” and their Holidays. It started slowly, with the implementing of Shabbat into their lives; preparing themselves, their home, cooking something special, and enjoying the festive meals with friends and those who had nowhere to go.

As time moved onward this became an essential part of the Johnson’s lifestyle and as the years progressed they had greater opportunities to welcome more people into their home who had no place to spend Shabbat. So, with the love that had grown in them for the people and the culture of Israel, it was a natural progression moving from being someone’s’ volunteer to opening their home regularly for people to come and join them for a Shabbat experience. It has now progressed into being their life’s work. What started as an occasional visitor sharing a meal has turned into like a full time job feeding and sheltering the lonely. In 2006, they started by opening their home on Erv Shabbat inviting the lonely whom had no place to go for the Festive meals. Since that time their home “Ha Miflaht” has steadily grown to serving over 3,500 meals a year to the Lonely Soldiers and New Immigrants. And as places the whole world over seem to be experiencing hardship they have every reason to believe that 2014 will see even more Lonely Soldiers and New Immigrants come through their doors.

You can learn more about this ministry at http://www.hamiflaht.org/.   You can a YouTube video of the ministry at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIEkzswTpMk.

If you’re interested in contributing to Living Word’s support of this ministry, please write “to HaMiflaht” on your offering envelope or make out your check to Living Word and write “HaMiflaht” on the memo line.

US-born IDF servicemen killed in Gaza among thousands of Israel’s ‘lone soldiers’


Published July 22, 2014

·Associated Press 

The two Americans killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip followed in the footsteps of scores of Jews from around the world who have volunteered to fight for Israel. 

Israel calls them the lone soldiers: They are men and women in the prime of their lives who have left their parents and often comfortable lives behind in places like Sydney, London, Los Angeles and elsewhere to join the Israel Defense Forces, marching in the desert and taking up arms to defend the Jewish state. 

There are about 2,000 lone soldiers currently serving in the military, said Marina Rozhansky, spokeswoman at the Israel Consul General in Los Angeles. Groups for families of lone soldiers have recently started in Los Angeles and other cities, providing a support network as the fighting intensifies. 

For Jews who left Israel before the age of 15 or who never lived there, their service is voluntary. For many, it is a calling, a way to get back to their roots and unite the world’s Jewish population. Some have dual citizenship. Others speak little to no Hebrew and have only recently been to Israel. 

Max Steinberg, 24, who grew up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, joined six months after he visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip with his younger brother and sister in June 2012, said Jake Steinberg, who spoke to The Associated Press hours after learning his brother, a sharpshooter in the Golani Brigade, was among 13 Israeli soldiers and scores of Palestinians over the weekend who died during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Jewish Journal was first to report Steinberg’s death. 

“He got there and felt a connection to Israel, saw that as a place he could live and be successful, and he went for it,” Jake Steinberg said. 

Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, the second American killed, was from South Padre Island, Texas, and he felt that same strong connection to the country he had only moved to four years ago. 

“Lone soldiers are a kind of star in Israel,” according to the Jewish Journal in a report. “For Israeli kids, army service is a rite of passage. But because it is a choice for the young members of the Diaspora who re-direct their own life paths to protect Israel, those enlistees are given a hero’s welcome — and a lifetime of Shabbat dinner invitations from their fellow soldiers, who become their surrogate families.” 

Mike Fishbein, who grew up in Los Angeles, said he felt like he was missing a connection to his Jewish identity in California. He spent a year volunteering and studying in Israel, but that experience only deepened his desire to do more.

 “I believe in that country. I believe in the Jewish people and the country’s reason to exist, so I thought I can’t just go back home to Los Angeles,” said Fishbein, who served about two years with the Israel Defense Forces starting in 2009.

 After Fishbein enlisted, he spent 30 days learning Hebrew along with more than two dozen others from Panama, South Africa, Australia and other nations. He then went through basic training, which included a 40-mile nighttime march through the desert. He lived for almost four months inside a worn tent from the Vietnam War era.

 Israeli troops wondered why he would leave the palm trees and beaches they had seen in movies. 

“They didn’t understand why a kid from Hollywood was there,” he said. “But after you stuck around, they would respect you and understand (that) we’re here together to try and protect the same thing.” 

When Fishbein heard of the two Americans killed, it touched him deeply, he said. He has struggled to post on his Facebook page his emotions or even give an explanation to his friends in California as to why he felt the need to serve. He never wanted to join the U.S. armed forces, Fishbein said. 

For the 25-year-old commercial production assistant, serving in the Israel Defense Forces was the culmination of milestones in his life, he said. In ninth grade, he accompanied his father with a documentary crew filming the unearthing of Jewish artefacts in a once largely Jewish town in Poland that was destroyed in the Holocaust.

 “That was a surreal experience for a ninth-grade kid to go throgh, but it set me up to go to Israel and serve,” he said. “Every lone soldier has had something similar.” 

Josh Reznick, 24, who works for a real estate investment firm in Baltimore, briefly considered joining the U.S. military, but after living on a kibbutz for a year, he realized his calling. He served in the same unit as the two Americans killed during the weekend. He did not know either of them, but he did know one of the fallen Israeli troops. 

Reznick believes the Steinberg and Carmeli will be “shining examples” for other lone soldiers. He was inspired by Michael Levin, a lone soldier from Pennsylvania killed fighting for Israel in 2006. He visited his grave site in Israel, where his tombstone is covered in Phillies baseball hats and Eagles jerseys.

“It’s very nice living in America and everything is fine. But I’m sure people right before WWII felt the same way about living in Germany,” he said. “If only there had been a place to run to for the Jews. That’s why it’s important to keep Israel, a Jewish nation, alive.” 

Isaac Cohen, 18, of Silver Spring, Maryland, starts this month at an Israeli military prep school before joining the army next year. He isn’t deterred by the recent violence. 

“They teach you how to survive in Israel,” said Cohen, who lived there for six years. “You kind of have to survive there. I feel a lot stronger when I’m there.”