Isolation is a dangerous thing for a teen. A New York Times article published last year expressed this well from a secular perspective: “A recent study of 3,300 high school students found that nearly one-third reported feeling unhappy or depressed in recent months. And while it might seem counterintuitive for a generation used to bonding with friends via texts, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, more than a quarter of those students said they did not feel connected to teachers, classmates, or their school community. ‘A lot of adults assume teens have it easy,’ Aya said. ‘But it’s hitting us the hardest.’” (NY Times, “Teens in Covid Isolation,” Emma Goldberg, 11/12/2020)
An Israeli news site echoed this portrait of youth at risk because of Covid19. The subject of the article was the impact lockdowns and restrictions are having on mental health in families, teens, and young adults. There has been a sharp rise in people turning to the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services for help. These requests continued to rise as the Corona crisis dragged on throughout last year. (Maariv online news, Yuval Bengo, 1/12/2021)
Most worrying is the sharp rise in family violence, suspected sexual abuse, divorce, teens experiencing loneliness, anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, attempted suicides, and reported addictions— including alcohol and drugs. We are sobered and alarmed about the state of things in Israel.
The Spiritual Dimension
To understand the crisis for young believers, we must add the element of being isolated from positive spiritual activities. Israeli Messianic youth have endured a whole year without in-person times of worshiping, praying together, and hanging out with believing friends.
It has been a harsh reality for teens especially, those who depend so much on healthy social settings—friends, school, youth group, congregation—for meaningful development, emotionally and spiritually. These relationships and interactions are crucial. And for almost all teens in Israel, this social contact has been replaced by ZOOM and online interaction.
Most schools are just now reopening after a year of opening and closing and months of online learning. Congregations in the land have not met in person for an entire year. Many youth groups have been in a similar limbo, meeting primarily online during the pandemic. Beginning in early 2020, all youth camps were shut down. Since the Spring of 2020, our events have been limited to monthly “Katzir Live”—doing our best to gather the youth via their computer screens.
Teens across Israel have paid a heavy emotional and mental price this past year, and, as a result, we will see the need for deep ministry in the near future.
What Can We Do?
This brings even more urgency to our hearts as our Katzir (harvest) youth camps are meant exactly for this purpose – to provide teens a safe place to encounter the love of God. It is a place to be healed and transformed by his presence and provide a place for healthy social interaction with other Messianic teens from across the land. In today’s reality, our work with youth becomes all the more crucial to help teens find freedom, to be restored, and empowered to walk in the fullness of their identity as sons and daughters of God.
It has been over a year since we have been with the teens physically, and our hearts ache with longing to host the young people again—to see God move in and through our camps. In the meantime, the online events have been very encouraging for the youth, even with the limitations. But we are ready to get back to onsite, in-person camps—and so are the youth!
Join us in praying for:
- God to protect the hearts and minds of the youth in the body in the land.
- Restrictions to be loosened soon so we can get back to physical camps.
- Wisdom re: how to best invest in and help teens after such a difficult year.
- Our volunteer team of young adults – who have been giving their time to invest in the youth. Last year and this year, we have depended on about 30 young adults who volunteer as counselors and small group leaders during our Zoom events. We rely on these amazing young adults to continue and succeed in our ministry to the youth.
Please support this vital work among Israeli youth:
If you would like to support Fields of Wheat and Katzir National Youth camps, one of our main ministry projects, you can visit the giving page here.
Thanks, from my heart, for your prayers and support,