For one in three Israeli children, Purim is a dreaded time. Last October, the UNICEF reported that 35 percent of children in Israel live in poverty. This was followed by findings from Israel’s National Insurance Institute in December that a staggering 1.6 million Israelis are living in poverty.
Beyond the statistics are the stories of children who go to bed hungry, whose parents struggle to make ends meet and who live with the ravaging effects of poverty. On Purim, when most children parade in costumes, enjoy sweet treats and celebrate with friends and family, hundreds of thousands suffer in silence.
But because Purim is a tremendous time of charity – with the requirement to give gifts to the poor (matanot la’evyonim) – there is hope for Israel’s impoverished, with relief organizations such as Meir Panim. As Israel’s premier social services organization, with relief centers across the country, Meir Panim is fighting the poverty and hunger crisis in Israel on a daily basis.
At the organization’s branch in Or Akiva, children receive free costumes and needy families are hosted for a festive Purim feast. In the various Meir Panim-sponsored after-school programs across Israel, children receive mishloach manot and hamenstashen. In addition, thousands receive daily meals at no cost from the Meir Panim Free Restaurant branches and the meals-on-wheels program. Since 2000, Meir Panim has served over 3,000,000 free meals to those in need – including children and Holocaust survivors.
“Meir Panim brings a smile to people’s faces – that is precisely our goal,” says Ilanit Hafuta, the Meir Panim Or Akiva brand manager. “We give as much as we can to help these families feel joy and not feel disadvantaged.”
Nathan, a 50-year-old single father from Dimona in Southern Israel, describes Meir Panim as his life force. “Every day, we get tremendous assistance from Meir Panim. They are helping me survive. They give us meals and hand us packages of vegetables and bread to help us get through the week,” he said. With a smile, Nathan added, “Because we get food from Meir Panim, we don’t have to decide whether to buy food or medicine. Without the meals and support from Meir Panim, our situation would be totally disastrous. We are surviving.”
Help bring a smile to those in need this Purim. Contribute to the Purim campaign, click here.