Food aid center reports 10% increase in need for handouts

Hazon Yeshaya inundated with requests from people below poverty line leading up to the High Holy Days.

Food Giveaway 311 (photo credit: Hazon Yeshaya)
Food Giveaway 311
(photo credit: Hazon Yeshaya)
Hazon Yeshaya, one of the country’s premier food aid centers, reported Wednesday a 10 percent increase in food distribution this year ahead of the High Holy Days, which start next week.
The organization, which was founded in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and now operates soup kitchens countrywide, launched its holiday food aid distribution earlier this week Sarah Manning, director of development for the non-profit, said it had been “inundated with requests” from a growing number of people considered by the state to be at Status Alevel poverty (“zaka’ut alef”).
According to the latest figures from the National Insurance Institute, some 420,100 families or 1,651,300 Israelis lived below the poverty line in 2008, compared to 1,630,400 in 2007.
“These families live on meager hand-outs and have even more reason than most to dread the forthcoming ‘threeday’ festival of Rosh Hashana followed by Shabbat, when stores, schools and soup kitchens across Israel will be closed,” she said.
Some 12,000 packages containing chicken, fruit and vegetables, honey cake, instant coffee, grape juice and honey are expected to be handed out at distribution centers in Rishon Lezion, Ashkelon and the capital, she said.
Abraham Israel, the founder and director of Hazon Yeshaya, added, “We do whatever we can to make the New Year holidays sweeter by providing food to those who unfortunately still live in hunger, despite Israel’s supposed prosperity.
We try not to turn anyone away who is truly desperate, even if it will take me the rest of the year to raise the money to pay for the food we distribute.”
Hazon Yeshaya relies heavily on volunteers from Israel and abroad to work in its soup kitchens, which operate all year, including on holidays. It also provides free dental care to the poor and vocational training courses to the destitute unemployed.