As I walked down the dark, dreary alley, I was preparing myself for a day in my life that would be the beginning of something monumental. Each door I passed was marked with a red X, significant in this ‘red light district’ of the city. My mind overloaded with images, questions, and of who, what, and why. Soon those questions would be answered.
This morning I made my way down to what has been called the ‘darkest place in all Israel.’ Us foreigners call it the ‘red light district’, though its much more detailed than that. Yes, it is the hub for prostitution, but its also the center for drug trafficking, sex slavery, human trafficking, and even child slavery as well. It is the one place in the city that most people avoid for the obvious reason. YET, it is the one place in the city that needs us most.
In an old bomb-shelter basement in the center of the ‘action’ a shelter for prostitutes has been formed… a place where the girls come for respite, food, showers, clothes, and most important love. Not the obscene, ungodly love they receive every night; but the unconditional, no strings attached love that makes them feel like they can breath for a few hours of the day. This is where I was headed; this is where I will be spending much of my time here in Tel Aviv.
My first day was emotionally draining, yet so unbelievably amazing! There was a woman who came in completely stoned out of her mind, having to be carried in and out. I doubt she knew where she was or what was going on, but for those couple of hours she was off the streets, safe. This is why they come…they feel safe and protected while at the shelter.
At night we then went out on the streets and handed out Shabbat meals to women and men in the area. Two local restaurants donate all the leftovers they have before closing the store for the evening. We give out coffee, tea, meals, and cake until it is gone. We were literally on the streets where people are shooting up right before our eyes and our own shelter women are being picked up by random strangers on the corner.
We are called to be the light among the darkness, but how can we be that light unless we go out to where the darkness lies? If we aren’t helping these women, who will? Who will be their light, when they need it the most? I admit that this will probably be the hardest work I have ever done in my life. We are up against spiritual battles beyond what anyone can imagine, but the truth is this… If God is on our side, who then can be against us???
I’m sure this won’t be my last post on this issue, as it is becoming a huge part of my life so I will end this one here. Shabbat Shalom…on this day unlike any other!