‘When a solider gets a portion, he immediately has the feeling that someone is behind him and cares for him.’
By Etgar Lefkovits, JNS
In this season of national volunteerism, he has been dubbed the “King of Falafel.”
A falafel restaurant in Be’er Ya’akov, a city south of Tel Aviv, is making waves after donating 25,000 portions of Israel’s national snack to Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting in the war against Hamas.
The beloved deep-fried golden-brown balls of chickpeas, stuffed in pita and topped with tehina, salads and French fries, have made their way from Falafel Biton all the way to IDF soldiers on the frontlines of Khan Yunis in Gaza.
“It is a given for me,” Shimon Biton, 31, who owns the restaurant, told JNS in an interview. “Just as our soldiers are giving of themselves for the country, I am doing my small part.”
Biton opened the restaurant five years ago after honing his skills at home, based on his father’s decades-old gluten-free recipe. He said that so long as he is in business, security personnel will always eat free of charge at his homey eatery.
“When a solider gets a portion, he immediately has the feeling that someone is behind him and cares for him,” he said.
After the war broke out in October, Biton went into overdrive, even shutting his business for a week to cater exclusively to soldiers free of charge.
In the months since, he has filled tens of thousands of orders for soldiers across the country, about 80% of which he packages with the help of staff to be delivered to military bases, with army trucks coming for the tasty pickups.
“It is after all because of our soldiers that we can sit here and eat and have coffee,” he said, relaxing outside his shop on a mild winter afternoon with customers bustling in and out of his spanking clean, highly-rated eatery. He added he is open to partnering with any organization or individual looking to sponsor falafels for soldiers.
Nearly half of all Israelis have volunteered in various aspects of life since the war began, breaking all records, according to surveys. Some motorists have recently taken to driving reservists they did not know before to their bases, ensuring that they get extra hours at home.
Biton, who has become something of a national celebrity with two television appearances after having already invested 250,000 shekels (around $68,000) in his culinary donations, said he is just doing an ordinary thing.
“By being united and by offering selfless love we will win,” he said.
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