Energetic, amazingly warm and spirited are words that best describe Anat Safrir, a one-of-a kind charity powerhouse in Samaria. These attributes, coupled with her ideology, and “can-do” attitude make her a natural leader.
Born and raised in Even Yehuda, near the coastal city of Netanya, Anat comes from a farming family. “Farmers are generally very giving people” she says, and it was from her family, real salt of the earth people, that she learned the importance of helping others, as they would consistently apportion their surplus produce to the hungry.
Anat is a natural beauty and as a young-adult, worked as a fashion model and was even crowned Miss Israel. After meeting her husband, Ilan, they moved to Margate, New Jersey for three years. Returning to Israel in 1994, they moved to the Samaria community of Barkan because a distant relative, the widow of a cousin, lived there. Neither Anat nor Ilan expected to settle there permanently. At first they were not even aware of the historical significance of Samaria; Barkan was just another place on the map. However, once there, they quickly grew to appreciate the importance of their new home, and decided they were there to stay.
Barkan, located north-east of the city of Ariel was established in 1981. Barkan was founded by fifty families living the Zionist dream of being pioneers in Biblical Israel. Life was hard, but the ideological spirit was strong. By 1987, forty more families joined, and today, more than thirty years later, Barkan is a community of close to 400 families with plans to grow by twenty five percent. The community keeps expanding as new neighborhoods develop and young families like Anat’s move in. While Barkan has maintained its original ideology, it has developed into a lovely community of private homes with a high quality of life.
Anat describes her community, borrowing a line from Israel’s unofficial anthem, Naomi Shemer’s timeless song “Jerusalem of Gold”: “The mountain air is clear as wine”. Anat explains that “the words are meant to describe Jerusalem, but I feel the same can be said of Barkan. It’s a beautiful community, but it is something more than that. When I think of Barkan, I think of community, settlement, and faith. The faith is what keeps me here. I’m so connected to this place, I’ll never leave. I want to embrace the land for enabling us to live here, on its holy soil.”
Anat and Ilan, are blessed with four beautiful children, Maayan (18) who will enlist in the IDF this fall, Ido (16), Ariel (13) who just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, and Noa (9). Anat and Illan have instilled their patriotism and love of the land in their children. Although still young, the children have already expressed interest in staying in Barkan, and perhaps one day raising their own families there.
Today, Anat works in the social services department of the Samaria Regional Council and is responsible for special humanitarian projects. She remembers back to 1997, when pregnant with her second child, she noticed an ad for a new job opportunity at the regional offices. The rest is history. Anat attributes her appointment to the position as nothing less than a sign from God. Over the past seventeen years she has been blessed to have been involved in so much charity work for so many families in need. This is due in part to the mayor of the Samaria Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, who strongly emphasizes this aspect of the council’s work.
There are more than 100,000 Jews living in Samaria today, spread out over 30 small communities and several larger towns, covering a large area in the heart of Israel. The small communities come under the umbrella of the Samaria Regional Council, and its social services department. Sadly, about a third of the families in the Samaria Regional Council’s jurisdiction live below the poverty line. Hundreds of families are experiencing economic difficulties and many of them require food staples just to maintain a basic standard of living. There are communities where a large percentage of the population are cared for by Social Services and are receiving aid. With a growing number of families asking for assistance, the social services department is now an indispensable part of the council.
For years, the social services department has worked tirelessly to provide families in need with the basics, restoring their self-worth and sense of dignity. CFOIC Heartland has had a hand in many of these initiatives. Anat makes it a point to acknowledge the assistance they receive. “CFOIC Heartland, headed by our dear friend, Sondra Oster Baras, does exceptional work assisting us in providing needy families with warm, fresh food on a regular basis. It’s okay not to have the newest clothes or sneakers on the block, but food is a necessity. This is what I was born to do. This gives me a sense of purpose.”
For the past nine years, CFOIC Heartland has been at the forefront of providing Gush Katif refugees with humanitarian aid. Together with individuals and groups such as Faith City Ministries, we strive to show these people that they have not been forgotten. When I think of Barkan, I think of community, settlement, and faith. The faith is what keeps me here. I’m so connected to this place, I’ll never leave. I want to embrace the land for enabling us to live here, on its holy soil. CFOIC Heartland, headed by our dear friend, Sondra Oster Baras, does exceptional work assisting us in providing needy families with warm, fresh food on a regular basis. It’s okay not to have the newest clothes or sneakers on the block, but food is a necessity. This is what I was born to do. This gives me a sense of purpose.
On several occasions, Anat has welcomed Christian groups in Samaria. In March she met with “CFOIC Heartland’s Promise to Possession” tour group at the Barkan Senior Center. While there, CFOIC Heartland presented Barkan with a generous donation for their playground, and Anat was quick to show her incredible appreciation with enthusiasm and warmth. Just recently, Anat met with a group of Christian supporters from the UK while packing food parcels for the Passover holiday. “It is always such a heartwarming experience to welcome our Christian friends.”
Anat’s appreciation for CFOIC Heartland is infectious: “The knowledge that we are backed by Christians around the world, gives us a sense of security, and the strength to continue moving forward.” There is no question – Anat’s energy coupled with your donations is a winning combination!