During a time of turmoil in Syria, American missionaries have stepped in with aid and medical help. Syria is in year seven of a civil war that has devastated the nation and its people, leaving many with nowhere to run.
Amid the chaos, Don Tipton of Beverly Hills founded a medical clinic between Israel and Syria, where most do not dare to go.
The clinic opened its doors last August and is run by two full-time Syrian doctors, as well as three rotating American physicians. The clinic treats roughly 70 Syrian patients each day, with ailments ranging from toothaches to battle wounds. Physicians at the clinic report to Israel, where the military reviews various surgical requests and treatments needed across the border in Israel.
Although Israel and Syria are anything but allies, many Israelis risk their lives to help Syrian refugees who are fleeing the violence of their home country. In fact, Israel even has a policy called “Operation Good Neighbor,” which provides help to civilians in war-torn countries.
Israel has been funneling food, clothing, construction equipment and medical supplies to Syria since June 2016. Not only have they sent materials into Syria, but they have brought thousands of Syrians to Israeli hospitals to seek the medical care they need.
Although the Israeli military has brought thousands of Syrians into the country, it has not been without intense security measures. The refugees that go into Tipton’s pediatric clinic have to undergo thorough security checks, similar to airport screenings.
Tipton’s wife, Sondra, stated that security measures have increased after a volunteer doctor was shot by a stray bullet in October.
“Nobody goes by the fence after dark anymore, and we’ve taken some other precautions,” she told USA Today.
The Israeli military believes that if they help Syrians, then they will change their mindset about the neighboring nation. They hope they can show them through their actions that they are good people, unlike what the Syrian regime has brought them up to think.
Muhammad Abusara, a doctor from southern Syria, helps coordinate bringing Syrians to the Israeli clinics and hospitals.
“Today, more Syrians see Israel not just as an army, but as a people who are bringing medicine and help. Syrians have seen how brutal our own country has become,” he said.
An 11-year-old that was treated at Tipton’s clinic told Israel’s Channel 10 that he was not afraid of Israel after his treatment.
“Once I was scared of Israel, but now no longer. Now, our parents tell us that Israel is good and merciful, and because of Israel we will stay alive.”
FROM BEVERLY HILLS TO ISRAEL
Tipton is not the first evangelical to invest in Israel, as it has long been a friend to many other Christian groups that have grown in Israel, and have gained support from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mark Amstutz, a political science professor and expert in evangelical ideology at Wheaton College in Illinois, told USA Today that evangelicals have gained a reputation for “getting involved on the ground with the issues of the day.”
More evangelical groups have gained prominence in Israel over the past decade and a half, supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration. Tipton first met Netanyahu through popular American televangelist Pat Robertson.
Tipton, age 72, describes his journey from Beverly Hills to Israel, a monumental change as he used to live next door to Ronald Regan, and was friends with celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, and Sally Struthers.
“We were chasing a little white ball,” Tipton said of his life in Beverly Hills. It was meaningless to him and he needed a change.
The Tipton’s specifically remember the one night that changed everything. They were watching the news which first detailed a famine in Ethiopia, followed by a problem of excess crops in America.
“We decided we needed to find a way to bring all the things from our blessed countries to places in the world where heartbreaking things are happening,” his wife said.
One good part about coming from Beverly Hills was that the Tipton’s could quickly garner funds to start their first aid organization, called “Friend Ships.”
The organization donated goods to Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. It was based out of Lake Charles, La. Tipton said that “Friend Ships” has received donations from over 2,000 corporations, which has gone to aid countries like Africa or Asia.
Despite his past involvement in a plethora of countries, Tipton stated Syria is his most critical mission.
Ran Ichay, a former senior adviser to Netanyahu and Tipton’s helper in Israel, said Israelis have increasingly welcomed the growing collaboration with American evangelicals.
“We respect each other enough not to get into debates about religious doctrine. And the work to feed hungry children is keeping us plenty busy,” Ran Ichay, a former senior adviser to Netanyahu said. He also serves as Tipton’s helper who has increased the collaboration with Israel and the Tiptons.