The History of ZulaRoo
An estimated 40,000 Israelis embark on worldwide journeys each year after completing their military service in the IDF, with a significant number venturing to Australia and New Zealand. For over a decade, our partner ministry, Celebrate Messiah New Zealand, has been instrumental in reaching out to young Israelis by hosting them in two lodges on the South Island. Their first lodge, aptly named “Zula” – Israeli slang for a “comfy place,” has been highly effective in this regard.
Meanwhile, Lawrence and Louise Hirsch, for more than two decades, have personally hosted Israeli backpackers in their Australian home, albeit one or two at a time. However, their vision always extended to establishing a Zula in Australia to accommodate more Israelis in one place.
The Hirschs firmly believe that God is calling us, here in Australia, to provide a safe and peaceful haven for Israelis as they explore our magnificent nation and meet our remarkable people. This Zula would serve as a refuge and a catalyst for transformation, an essential step in connecting them with the God of Israel during their Australian journey. This initiative would be overseen by a warm family of believers, who would compassionately demonstrate the love and hospitality of Yeshua to these young Israelis.
The Hirschs affectionately named this endeavour “ZulaRoo” – “Zula” in reference to the lodge in New Zealand, and “Roo” representing the kangaroos that inhabit Australia’s breathtaking landscapes.
The Zula Wanaka Lodge in New Zealand
One of the Israeli backpackers hosted by Lawrence and Louise Hirsch
In 2023, the Lord set His own vision in motion.
In February 2023, Celebrate Messiah, in collaboration with Chosen People Ministries, introduced the “Host Israelis” network in Australia. While the Hirschs and other Australian believers had been hosting Israelis in their homes for many years, the dream was to establish a network of Yeshua-believers willing to host these Israeli backpackers. This network would stand out for its accountability and security, benefitting both the hosts and the Israeli travellers. Today, Host Israelis is a network of Israel-friendly believers who offer their homes to Israeli visitors, motivated by a desire to bless Israel through their selfless service.
Nevertheless, the hope for a dedicated lodge for these backpackers persisted.
Later that year, almost simultaneously and without the Hirschs disclosing their ZulaRoo plans, four distinct events unfolded. Through various individuals, Celebrate Messiah received: a new lounge suite, a refrigerator, $357,000 for a house deposit, and, remarkably, a caravan!
To add to this, the Bolton family, who had spent four years living and working in Israel, reached out to the Hirschs. Returning to Australia, they inquired if Celebrate Messiah had any plans for hosting Israeli backpackers in a lodge setting.
The timing of these events, with different people sharing the same desire, could mean only one thing:
God is doing something here!
Then, on October 7, 2023, tragedy struck in Israel as 1,400 Israelis lost their lives in a Hamas invasion from the Gaza Strip. Many Israelis experienced the loss of loved ones on that fateful day. The Israel-Hamas War became a time of grief and sorrow, reminding us to look to the hills, where our help comes from — the Lord (Psalm 121:1-2).
It was at that moment we realised that this vision might have an even greater purpose than we initially thought. When Israeli travellers begin their journeys anew, they will be carrying the weight of trauma and heartache, seeking meaning and healing. They may be questioning, “…Where is God in all of this?”
In the days following the attack in Israel, God continued to show us favour. We were able to acquire a spacious home along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, exemplifying the tranquillity we aimed to offer Israeli travellers. This house surpassed our expectations in every way, a clear sign that the Lord was indeed guiding this project.
Yet, our work is not complete. We have some of the furniture, appliances, a house deposit, and a host family. Now, we need to secure the full cost of purchasing this home – $1.4 million dollars. This ZulaRoo will be a dedicated home, managed by a loving believing family, offering a warm welcome to Israeli travellers at no cost. In contrast to hosting one or two Israeli travellers, as our Host Israelis network does, this ZulaRoo will be capable of accommodating a larger number of Israelis on their Australian journey. We invite fellow believers in Yeshua to join us in this vision, so that we may show these young Israelis the love of Yeshua, who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
Will you join us?
Two Israeli backpackers hosted by the Hirsches and Boltons