By REVITAL ARANBAEV
One of the fastest growing soup kitchen chains in Israel, Hazon Yeshaya, is expanding its services by offering vocational training classes.
On November 7, a wide variety of courses including hairdressing, bookkeeping, culinary and secretarial seminars will be held in Hazon Yeshaya's central Jerusalem facility.
"Our services begin with food, which is the most essential thing for survival in this world," says founder and chairman Abraham Israel. "But now we are also providing hope for people."
The courses will be for single mothers, men and women who did not complete schooling, discharged soldiers who have no trade and people whose trades have become obsolete. They will attempt to restore self worth and confidence, as well as provide those who complete the courses with a diploma accredited by the government.
In addition to vocational courses, Hazon Yeshaya is adding a free dental clinic that will open within the next couple of months. There will be volunteer dentists available 18 hours each day. Three-hundred children are already awaiting these services, including some who lost mature teeth as early as age 10.
Israel, a retired accountant and business associate, created Hazon Yeshaya with his personal funds and business knowledge. The success in the organization is greatly due to Israel's method of treating this non-profit organization as a business, appealing to companies and corporations and inciting them to donate time and money.
Israel recalls that, struggling through poverty in his early years, it was a soup kitchen that saved his life. He felt impelled to construct an organization that would feed the hungry.
Israel's family had to flee Egypt due to persecution in 1958. As a young boy, he spent three years in Paris awaiting a visa to enter the United States.
"We lived in poverty for those three years. We found a soup kitchen that literally saved our lives," says Israel. "Yes we wore the same clothes for three years, but we survived. You can't exist without having access to something as basic as food."
Hazon Yeshaya started the soup kitchen in 1997 with one location and 17 people to feed. Nine years later, over 7,300 Israelis are taking advantage of his soup kitchens in 38 locations around Israel.
Eighty percent of hot meals go to school-age children. According to Israel, "Children are going to school starving and dropping out at high rates because they are too hungry to keep focus and learn."
There is no discrimination against who receives a meal. If a person is in desperate need of nourishment, they will not be turned away. Hazon Yeshaya does, however, conduct background checks to ensure that a person is truly in need and not simply trying to snag a free meal. According to Israel, this has happened hundreds of times.
Hazon Yeshaya is also the largest food entity that feeds holocaust survivors. "It's so sad to see people that suffered through the holocaust left in hunger again 60 years later," says Israel.
Kosher meals are served 365 days a year. There has never once been food left over.