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Israel's Gaza-Area Farmers Touched by US Volunteers with 'Big Hearts' Who Helped Rescue Wartime Crops

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MOSHAV DEKEL, Israel – One group feeling a major impact from the October 7th Hamas attack is Israeli farmers.

While locals have jumped in to help, it's not been enough. However, some American farmers have stepped up to the plow to bring much-needed skills to the fields.

Here on Moshav Dekel near Gaza, war prevented farmers from harvesting an eggplant crop.

Author Doug Hershey saw a need in the fields of the south.

Standing by the eggplants, he told CBN News, They should have been harvested; and, you know, November, December – and there were no workers. In a very literal sense, in Israel, the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few."

Aner Agiv, the head of the moshav's security and also a farmer, explained, "We didn't have water for our crops. And in October, it was very hot. Then, after the water came back, the workers leave. We used to have foreign workers from Thailand."

That's when Hershey stepped in to help by arranging trips for farmers to come here.

"I have a company called Ezra Adventures that is a travel company for small groups, but in Hebrew, Ezra means help. When you have specific skills from the States that connect with specific needs in Israel, and to be able to blend those, it's really been amazing," Hershey explained.

As a grateful farmer, Agiv noted, "It's incredible that guys from another state, another country decided to come here on their own money and their own spare time. They're also farmers as is us. It's beautiful."

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Another group of volunteers were picking strawberries less than two miles from the Gaza border. If they weren't doing so, the strawberries probably would not make it to market.

Pennsylvania farmer Katey Shertzer told us, "We heard that there is a big need in this area since a lot of the farmers were called into the reserves and military, that a lot of the crops were going unharvested."

For Shertzer, it was her first time in Israel. She was interested in the elevation of the strawberry plants, and it was a different experience for her.

"Picking strawberries at home, we would be picking them down on the ground and not up in the air. So this is very cool to see." She added, "The people here are fantastic. Even though they're going through war right now, they're so giving at the same time."

Kelly Zimmerman, another first-timer to Israel, said she came to "link arms" and give support.

"I think there's no better way than to show up in person. And we've experienced that. It means a lot to people here. And so, it's been a beautiful thing so far," Zimmerman related.

We asked her if she was afraid, having come to a war zone. She replied, "No. I love adventure." 

So, what will she tell people when she returns to the States? "Come to Israel. Experience it for yourself," she answered.

Bella, who owns the strawberry greenhouses, stressed that without volunteers, she wouldn't have had a crop or an income. "The volunteers did so much! I don't have enough words to thank them for what they did," she said.

Danny, whose identity was hidden for security reasons, explained that for the last six months, the area had felt frozen in time, but the volunteers helped bring it back to life.

We asked what he thought of the volunteers.

"Oof! it's amazing," he enthused. "It's amazing. After the seventh of October. you know, after a few months, it's hard for us to push. And these people come, we know, with big heart, to help us."

Pennsylvania farmers John Kreider and Jim Shertzer are helping Danny.

Kreider, a large animal veterinarian, stated, "We're all farmers. We are. We love working hard. We love agriculture. We love working with farmers, the whole atmosphere. So, it's just a chance to serve at what we're good at."

Shertzer, a farmer and property manager, explained, "I did some welding, some steel fabrication over at the farm, at Danny's place. This morning we were cutting down trees that are around a water source, that he is going to be using for expansion of his fields."

And Kreider's impression of Israelis for the people back in Pennsylvania: "They're good people. They've suffered a lot, but they're resilient and they're forging ahead. But they needed help."

Shertzer had a similar impression. "It's a great country," he said. Not to be cliche, but it's flowing with milk and honey. It's from the work that these people did to grow in the desert. It's amazing to see green fields in the middle of the desert." 

Hershey believes they are stepping into the pages of the Bible to fulfill prophecy.

"Isaiah 61 talks about strangers and foreigners coming to help, but not just help. Working in the fields, tending the fields, tending the vineyards. And that's exactly what we've been doing," he noted.

Hershey encourages others to step up and help.

"There are tremendous needs here in this land. Israel is heartbroken. They are still grieving the losses of friends. They're still trying to figure out families that are scattered all over the place. This is the time to support Israel. You can support by prayer, You can support by financially giving. And there are opportunities, whether it's with groups, with mine – with Ezra adventures – or other opportunities, there are opportunities to come and help to actually be involved," Hershey urged.

He is convinced it also honors the eternal covenant God made with the Jewish people.

"For Christians, if they've enjoyed their Jewish Bible and their Jewish Messiah, they've enjoyed the spiritual blessings of Israel, and Christians owe a debt, according to Romans 15 – and the way you repay that debt is to minister to Israel and to serve Israel with material needs," he declared, and added, "If there's ever been a time to do that, it's right now!"

If your church or small group would like to get involved with projects in Israel, you can get more information at

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and