“It was painful to see this exhausted father, pregnant mother and weeping children living this way. I walked in and immediately saw the fear in their eyes.”
A growing number of Israeli families are being transformed into the “working poor,” as they fail to keep up with increased taxes, rising food prices and high rents.
The Mirilashvilis are one such family. Without the assistance of Meir Panim, an organization committed to fighting poverty in Israel, they might have endured more than one Rosh Hashana on the streets of Israel. Instead, they are not only regaining their independence, but are giving back to the community too.
“Four years ago, we spent Rosh Hashana in a in a tent on the grass outside the City Hall,” recounts 35-year-old Ilan. “We found ourselves homeless after a lengthy financial and bureaucratic nightmare. I had four little children to feed, two of whom were sick, and my wife was eight months pregnant. I was working every night and would come back to the tent, exhausted, during the day. The future looked bleak. I was a broken man.”
When concerned neighbors notified Meir Panim about the deplorable situation, Regional Director Ilanit Hafuta was immediately dispatched to the Mirilashvilis’ makeshift home.
“It was painful to see this exhausted father, pregnant mother and weeping children living this way,” recalls Ilanit. “I walked in and immediately saw the fear in their eyes. It was clear they needed much more than just a warm meal. Right then and there, I vowed to help the Mirilashvilis get their lives on track again.”
Using her strong connections with local officials, Ilanit walked Ilan through the entire bureaucratic process and found his family a new, affordable apartment in less than a month.
A Rosh Hashana Miracle
“I was speechless,” Ilan confesses. “Ilanit organized a whole group of volunteers from Meir Panim to come and renovate our new home for us. Some volunteers brought furniture and others came to paint. It was like a Rosh Hashana miracle.”
But that was only the beginning; the warm relationship didn’t end with the acquisition of the apartment. “Ilanit has been like an older sister to me, guiding me and my family every step of the way,” says Ilan. “After we moved into our new home and got back into a routine, I started volunteering for Meir Panim. I’m a truck driver by profession and I use my van to pick up food from companies, shops and bakeries and then deliver it to families in need. I have no other way of thanking Meir Panim besides giving back.”
“I want this amazing cycle of giving to continue.”
After Summer of Violence, the Need is even Greater
For Israel’s impoverished population, the holidays offer no respite from daily hardships. And this year, after a summer of violence, their need is even greater.
In the days leading up to Rosh Hashana, Meir Panim staff and volunteers across Israel hand-delivered close to 2,500 food shopping cards to those in need. The cards, preloaded with 250 shekels (approximately $72), can be used at most major Israeli supermarket chains to purchase food and household items. The cards grant recipients the flexibility to customize their purchases.
“The food cards change the way many of Israel’s neediest families celebrate Rosh Hashana,” said David Roth, president of American Friends of Meir Panim. “We realize that each family has different needs and preferences. These cards allow people to buy the products they want and need for the holidays, giving them the opportunity to make their celebrations special.”
For those unable to shop for themselves, Meir Panim distributed holiday food packages, containing fresh produce, eggs, fish, meat and wine to the less fortunate. Other Meir Panim holiday activities included celebrations for the children in Meir Panim’s after-school youth clubs and their families, ushering in the New Year with hope and joy.
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