Kentucky group provides bulletproof backpacks to Israelis

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

While most of the time, Israel is a safe place to visit, and residents in most of Israel are secure in their homes, Israel is located in a difficult neighborhood. Since its establishment 65 years ago, Israel has fought several wars for its survival, and even when there is no major combat, it must constantly be on guard against terrorist attacks.

The IDF has been fairly effective against suicide bombers and other devices within its borders, it has been unable to stop the almost daily barrage of rockets from Gaza. The southern cities of S’derot and, more recently, Ashkelon are regular targets of these attacks. When hostilities break out with Hezbollah, some northern Israeli cities are also in jeopardy.

Wherever you turn in S’derot, there are bomb shelters and reinforced concrete structures that offer some protection from the Hamas rockets.

Ashkelon is a bigger city within three miles of a major hydroelectric plant and other strategic targets, and it is only recently that Hamas acquired rockets that can reach it. When the “tzeva adom” – code red – is sounded, residents know they have just 14 seconds to seek shelter before an incoming rocket hits.

But what happens if someone is more than 14 seconds from a shelter? What about little children, the disabled, the elderly?

Bart Britt, the executive director of Shield of David in Bowling Green, decided to do something about it. In 2009, he established a non-profit organization to distribute bulletproof backpacks made of a lightweight material that can shield people from many munitions as well as the deadly shards of glass, ball bearings, nails, screws and shrapnel that often fill the air when a Kassam rocket hits.

When incorporated into backpacks that weigh only four pounds, that material can shield the wearer’s vital organs and save lives. The backpack is made in sizes for both adults and children and is designed to accommodate school supplies, laptop computers and other things people commonly carry.

Since each backpack costs $250, it is an expensive proposition to supply backpacks to all Israelis who live under this threat of attack.

Shield of David, an Evangelical Christian organization that interprets Ezekiel 33:7 as an instruction that everyone needs to be watchful for Israel, has established as its mission the goal of providing protective backpacks to those who are at risk of rocket attacks in Israel.

Britt said, “We’re really new as a nonprofit and we’re continuing to strive to build our base of donors. … We’ve barely been in existence for year. We shipped the first 500 backpacks last October.

They were distributed through the mayor’s office in Ashkelon where children have no access to shelters” even though the city is often targeted. Britt was there for the distribution, and “right after we left in October, Hamas fired over 200 rockets at Ashkelon.”

Britt is reaching out to the Jewish community at this time, he said, because “we need funding in order to put a backpack on a child. We want the Jewish community to know the Christian community stands with the Jewish community.”

Although there are differences in our beliefs, he explained, they come from the same roots. And while Shield of David was founded because of his Evangelical faith, Britt maintains that “We’re not just Evangelical Christian. We have Jewish members too. This is a Christian and Jewish organization. We stand together, united, and we want the Jewish community to know there is an organization on their back door which is doing this, with administrative costs of less than three percent.”

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