“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)
As the High Holy Days approach, Israeli food distribution centers are reporting a sharp increase in the number of Israeli families in need of help just putting food on their table.
One non-governmental organization (NGO) reports that distribution of holiday food basket requests is up to 12,300 from 10,500 a year ago.
Many of the needy are senior citizens from the former Soviet Union. Long lines have formed with many waiting hours to receive their holiday basket.
One man expressed the dismay of many when he said, “I have a job, I never thought I would be in a place like this. Wake up! People here are going under.”
A woman expressed the situation when she said, “I hope someone in the government will see us, we have nothing to eat or wear.” (YNet)
Israel’s high cost of living is legendary. Many services and products sell at twice their cost in Israel than in the US; for instance, a hamburger at McDonalds costs about $10, while the average equivalent cost in the US is under $5.
One of Israel’s largest charities, Leket Israel, reports a 20 percent increase in those needing regular support as compared to a year ago. Last month, the organization provided support to some 168,000.
People with part-time jobs who also receive the Israeli equivalent of social security say that they are not able to live on the money they receive.
Many families are forced to live on little more than $1,000 a month. With the average government support payment being about $700 a month, even those with government support are hardly able to survive.
Last year’s budget cuts in welfare support and the war in Gaza are factors that have led to the increases in those needing help.
Other contributing factors include cuts to children’s aid programs and an increase in the value added tax which has led to inflation. (YNet)
Even military combat soldiers are saying that their pay is not enough to cover their basic expenses and that they have to take on other jobs.
In a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, soldiers from one unnamed unit said that they have “nothing to eat” when they return from their bases. (Israel HaYom)
In the letter, they write that they have had to pay for their own equipment, which has left many with outstanding debts.
“Because the military salary does not even provide for our most basic necessities, we have all become beggars since being recruited to the IDF—we have debts at the bank and everywhere else,” they write.
An IDF official responded to the letter, saying, “We are aware of the problem of hungry soldiers in the IDF.” (Israel HaYom)
But physical hunger is not the only kind of hunger being experienced in Israel. There is also spiritual hunger.
There is a growing need for cantors and shofar blowers, Torah readers, rabbis, and others to lead synagogue services in IDF bases for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. To meet the demand, graduates of yeshivas (Jewish rabbinical seminaries) are sending individuals to join the soldiers on their bases during the High Holidays. (Arutz 7)
One of the organizers, Yisrael Speyer, attributes the increase in spiritual needs to the summer war:
“The demand is definitely being caused by the experiences of many soldiers during Operation Protective Edge, and this is a great opportunity for us to reach out to these soldiers and help them have a ‘down-home holiday,’ even if they are far away from family,” Speyer said.