May 21, 2021

Adventists in Israel Are Grateful Their Lives Were Spared After Close Calls

A Seventh-day Adventist family of four living in Israel are grateful their lives were spared after a rocket from Gaza fell in their building yard in the city of Ashdod and broke every window in their apartment. An Adventist pastor in Tel Aviv also shared a harrowing experience of rockets explosions in his family’s neighborhood, as church leaders in the country called for prayers for peace.

“God is the source of true peace. He keeps us from turmoil,” Daniel Stojanovic, Adventist Church Israel Field President, wrote in a newsletter sent to Adventist leaders around the world. “How to have peace in the middle of a turmoil? How to live in an undisturbed way in the midst of the rockets? It is only possible when we are close to our heavenly Father,” he answered.

Rocket Explosion in Ashdod

Andrei and Olya Semyonovs live in Ashdod, where there is a Seventh-day Adventist community. Together with their two children, they immigrated to Israel in 2020. During their first year, they had to endure COVID-19-related restrictions and quarantines. When they completed the vaccination protocols and thought life would return to normal again, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians broke out.

As they do not have a bomb shelter in their apartment, the couple had to move to a nearby public bomb shelter, Israel Field communication director Sergey Gregorev reported. “For almost a week, they spent days and nights with other people,” Gregorev wrote. On May 17, a rocket fell into their yard, causing severe damage to a neighbor’s house. “The blast wave knocked out all the windows of their apartment, making the apartment unsafe to live. The children suffered a tremendous shock from the strong sound and horrible effect of the rocket. Thank God everyone is alive.”

Gregorev shared that church members took the Semyonovs family to Haifa, away from the rocket attacks.

A Pastor in Tel Aviv

Farther north, Tel Aviv Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Gerardo Farias, who has been serving in Israel for three years, shared the ordeal he and his wife endured as they walked their dogs one evening.

“[Suddenly] the alarm went off, and we were in the middle of a street, with no shelter to hide in nearby,” Farias wrote. “We just did what people near us did: we ran and knelt beside a wall. It was really breathtaking to see rockets cross the sky and explode right in front of our eyes.”

Farias said he is thankful they were able to survive and returned to their apartment safely. “That night, by the grace of God, we made it back home, and we went downstairs with our neighbors to the bomb shelter,” Farias wrote. “The alarms have been going off all week. Day and night. [On Saturday (Sabbath)], right after the church service, we had another attack,” he added. “This time, a missile landed 1.4 kilometers [about 0.8 miles] away from our home. We felt the explosion louder than other times. I had never seen the destructive power of a missile firsthand. Shrapnel everywhere. Busted glass even at 100 meters from the explosion. It is very hard to digest.”

Despite the ongoing challenges, Farias emphasized that their trust in God has not been shaken. “Our God is in control. The church members are OK. We are OK. We need your prayers so that peace may be achieved in the Middle East,” he wrote.

An Adventist Institution in East Jerusalem

The Israel Field of the Adventist Church has an institution in East Jerusalem that, according to Stojanovic, is close to the points of tension that seem to have triggered the recent conflict. The highly symbolic Damascus Gate, a strategic point convenient for mass gatherings, is not far from the Adventist Study Center. “The proximity of the Study Center to the Damascus Gate makes things uncertain if the violence continues,” Stojanovic wrote.

Stojanovic reported that a volunteer and a family of students are living in the Adventist Study Center. They are safe, but their situation remains uncertain.

“We are inviting you to continue to pray for Jerusalem, for the country of Israel, for the Adventist Study Center, and in a specific way for [the people living at the Adventist Study Center]. May our heavenly Father be their protection,” Stojanovic wrote. “May He help the political leaders to find a solution that is stable and inspired by respect, justice, and peace.”

The Israel Field of Seventh-day Adventists has 22 congregations in Israel and about 830 baptized members, speaking eight languages: Hebrew, Russian, English, Spanish, Romanian, Arabic, Amharic, and Akan (from Ghana), according to Stojanovic. The Adventist Church employs five full-time ministers and two assistant pastors.