Needy people line up to fill up their baskets with foods and goods on Thursday ahead of the Passover holiday at the Pitchon Lev distribution center in Rishon LeZion, March 29, 2018.
(photo credit: LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZI)
As they do every year, Israel’s leading charitable organizations and the general public have rallied together to assist hundreds of thousands of needy families for Passover.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews provided more than NIS 12.5 million in Passover assistance to help more than 145,000 people living in poverty before the holiday.
The organization distributed the assistance primarily in the form of gift cards that can be used to purchase food and clothing, allowing recipients to anonymously purchase items according to their needs.
Additionally, the organization gave out grants to some 10,000 IDF soldiers in need, including some 7,000 lone soldiers, without relatives in Israel who can help them.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ’s founder and president, took the opportunity ahead of the holiday to criticize the government for failing to wage an effective war on poverty.
“Poverty in Israel, the nation of start-ups, is not the plague of Egypt, nor is it a decree of fate,” he said. “Poverty is the result of government policies that drastically reduced social expenditures and neglected those who are weakened.”
Some four years ago, the government appointed Eli Alalouf to head the Committee to Fight Poverty. The committee issued recommendations it said were needed by the state to combat poverty in all aspects of life totaling some NIS 8 billion.
While the government has adopted many of the measures, to date, only around half of the funds have been transferred to implement the recommendations.
“Until the government of Israel is willing to implement the recommendations of the Alalouf Committee, rather than allowing the report to sit and gather dust, and create a focused and budgeted program to reduce poverty, we have to rely heavily on the support of caring citizens in Israeli society and many others to fight poverty,” Eckstein said.
The Leket Israel National Food Bank said this year leading up to Passover it has received 35% more in requests for assistance from its 200 nonprofit partners.
The organization, the largest food rescue organization in Israel, received some 1,600 tons of fruits and vegetables that were slated for destruction and instead were donated by farmers, packing houses and surplus food crops.
Leket Israel CEO Gidi Kroch recently criticized the government for failing to implement policies that could rescue food instead of wasting it – a move which he said would save the economy an estimated NIS 7b. per year and help solve food insecurity in Israel.
“Israel is not even close to setting a target for minimizing food waste,” Kroch told The Jerusalem Post
last month, noting that Israel is one of the only countries in the OECD that has not set a target on this issue.
Additionally, on Thursday, Pitchon Lev held a food distribution event at its two centers in Rishon Lezion and Karmiel, providing some 12,400 food baskets to needy families for the holiday.
Similarly, Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charitable organization, also provided tens of thousands of needy families with provisions for Passover.
Last year ahead of the holiday, the organization launched a new food security initiative estimated at NIS 60m. in collaboration with Leket Israel and the Labor and Social Services Ministry. The initiative gave some 10,800 needy families suffering from food insecurity a monthly NIS 500 prepaid card with which they can purchase food.
Despite harsh criticism of the government in its policies towards the needy, the Labor and Social Services Ministry has attempted to best utilize its budget to address food insecurity and poverty.
This year, the ministry allocated some NIS 18m. in assistance to the needy for Passover.
The government provided some 14,000 Holocaust survivors with food baskets for Passover totaling some NIS 1.5m.
The ministry also called on all senior citizens and Holocaust survivors who do not have anyone to celebrate the holiday with, to join one of the Seders run by the ministry at vacation centers and nursing homes around the country.
In addition, the volunteer system within the ministry will run a program called “We are all gathered around the table,” which connects families, communities, and institutions with lone senior citizens to celebrate the Seder together.
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