This Passover, like every year, Israel’s leading charitable organizations and tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide rallied together to assist hundreds of thousands of needy families for the holiday.

Leket Israel, considered the national food bank, collected nearly 400 tons of fresh produce, including grapefruits, sweet potatoes, onions, eggplants and cabbage. Its gleaning initiative, Project Leket, sends thousands of volunteers and dozens of paid pickers into fields and orchards throughout the year to gather produce donated or left unpicked by farmers.

Leading up to the holiday, Leket staff, along with volunteers from companies, youth movements and the army, prepared crates of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as food baskets, at the organization’s two logistic centers in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv, and in Nesher, near Haifa. The crates and baskets were delivered to some 180 nonprofit partners around the country that distributed the food to the needy.

In addition, over 10 tons of dry goods and dairy products, including cheeses, yogurts, humous and matza meal donated by manufacturers was sorted and delivered to the nonprofits to in turn distribute to underprivileged families.

“There is an increased need around the holiday times and we are seeing an even greater one this year with the number of working poor on the rise. It’s of utmost importance to us at Leket to collect as much fresh fruits and vegetables and gather as many dairy and dry good donations in order to distribute this much-needed food,” said Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel ahead of the holiday.

Latet, the humanitarian aid organization, also held its annual food drive in the week leading up to Passover. Some 8,000 volunteers in over 220 supermarkets nationwide collected food for tens of thousands of needy families throughout the country.

The organization distributed the goods, comprised mostly of basic necessities such as matza, sugar and oil to some 150 of its charitable partners, which distributed the food to underprivileged people across all sectors of society.

In addition, this year Latet developed an innovative application called Emojew, that allows users to send Jewish- and Passover-themed smiley faces and icons through text messages and on the web, similar to the popular Emoji. The free app, along with the launch of a dedicated website, helped raise donations and provide meals to nearly 8,400 needy families for the holiday.

“Our message for this holiday is very clear: Let’s ensure that everyone will have a happy holiday,” Anna Shloman, director of resource development at Latet, said on Sunday.

Employees and volunteers at Magen David Adom, together with thousands of youth volunteers and members of the Orot Ha’Chesed (Light of Grace) movement founded by the late MK Hanan Porat, launched a national operation to collect and distribute some 21,000 food packages containing basic necessities such as sugar, matza, haroset and horse radish for families in need.

“Every year, over many weeks, MDA workers and volunteers act to increase the amount of food packages distributed before the holiday, designed to give each person the opportunity to celebrate the Passover holiday,” said MDA director-general Eli Bin.

This year ahead of the holiday, MDA volunteers also cleaned, painted and renovated the apartments of elderly people nationwide. The organization also joined together with ELEM, the nonprofit group that helps youth in distress, and with children from across the country who assisted in packaging the food baskets.

In addition, numerous MDA employees and volunteers throughout the country celebrated the Seder Monday evening at MDA stations, remaining on high alert for the holiday.

The International Fund for Christians and Jews announced ahead of Passover that it would donate NIS 20 million to tens of thousands of families, children, elderly and needy soldiers. The donations included food vouchers for the Shufersal supermarket chain. It also distributed Rav- Tav vouchers, as well as vouchers for the FOX clothing chain. The IFCJ distributes such vouchers, allowing the needy to purchase food and clothing based on their personal tastes in a dignified manner.

The group also held a Seder for some 50 underprivileged elderly and Holocaust survivors in Sderot on Thursday.

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ, attended the Seder, which was held as part of the organization’s “Respect and Friendship” program, which provides monthly assistance for food, medicine and relief to thousands of lonely elderly in need.

“Unfortunately, poverty in Israel continues to worsen and we worry about the steady increase in appeals for assistance during the holidays and throughout the year,” Eckstein said ahead of the holiday. “We expect and hope to see this trend reversed with the concrete steps of the Israeli government to combat poverty and the food insecurity accompanying it.”


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