JERUSALEM, Israel — What would you do if you had to give away millions of dollars a year? That’s what one young seminary student had to decide when his wealthy grandmother passed away, a decision that’s taken him on an unusual journey around the world and now to Israel.
Walter Panzirer never played wheelchair basketball until he visited a rehab center for wounded Israeli soldiers. He found out just how tough it is.
“That was incredibly difficult,” he told CBN News. “They made it look so easy.”
Panzirer, along with three other trustees, oversee the Liona Helmsley Foundation, one of the largest in the world. The foundation donates millions of dollars annually to projects worldwide, such as the rehab center in Israel, something Panzirer says he never expected.
“This is amazing as a Christian,” he explained. “If you would ask me 10 years ago if I’d be standing here in Israel, I’d say absolutely not. As I went through my pastoral studies, if I was asked would I be in Israel helping Israelis, helping the poor in Africa with other projects in the United States, I’d never believe it in a million years. This is truly a blessing to be here.”
The foundation supports a number of projects in Israel, including one of the world’s leading brain research centers. Fellow trustee Sandy Frankel believes it’s always an important time to bless Israel.
“Every time is an important time. Whenever now is, now is the most important time. Tomorrow will be the most important time and even more important than today,” Frankel told CBN News.
“When you think about Israel, a flower flourishing in a tsunami of war, hatred and upheaval in this part of the world and [it] still manages to flourish, it’s a miracle,” she said.
“Israel is a light to the nations. The world, I feel, doesn’t understand that,” Panzirer continued. “There’s so much where they’re caught up on the conflict that’s going on in Israel and there’s so much more to Israel than just the conflict. There’s wonderful scientific [research] being done here. There’s wonderful humanitarian aid being done here that’s not getting reported by the main stream press.”
When the Helmsley Foundation trustees visited Israel, a terror attack took place in Tel Aviv in the heart of Israel, while a cross-border incident flared in the north. Yet life in the Jewish state goes on.
“Everywhere we go, we hear the same thing — how strong the Israeli will is, how strong the people are,” Panzirer said. “Even at a horrible time when rockets are coming in, at the brink of war, people are at peace here. People go about their daily life.”
“When you help Israel, you help the world,” Frankel concluded. “That’s what people don’t realize. Israelis aren’t an inward people who are trying to benefit themselves. What they are doing benefits the world.”
Originally published on CBN News