Despite a slight drop in the poverty rate this year, Israel still fluctuates between being the poorest and second poorest country in the OECD. The 2016 Latet report on Israel’s poverty noted that over 1.6 million Israeli citizens are living below the poverty line, and an in-depth look illustrates a despairing situation.
1.41 million adults and over 1 million children live in poverty, with almost 35% of these children forced to skip a daily meal due to their family’s financial position. More than 60% of parents couldn’t afford medical treatment for themselves or their children. And the elderly population was just as susceptible; approximately 50% were without enough food, while close to 60% were in a state of bad health due to their economic woes.
Unfortunately, various government initiatives providing the poor with basic necessities are insufficient, and most of the poor citizens of Israel rely on non-profit organizations like Yad Ezra V’Shulamit for help.
When Yad Ezra V’Shulamit was founded by Ariel Lurie in 1988, he started by handing out a few parcels of food to help his neighbors get through the week, powered by his own painful experience of growing up poor and hungry. Fast-forward 28 years, and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit is now one of Israel’s largest distributors of food for poor families in Israel. With more than 30 distribution points for food parcels around the country, and four Children’s Centers that provide a daily hot meal to 500 children, the organization feeds over 100,000 people a year.
“I can’t sleep at night knowing Jewish children are hungry,” explains the humble father and grandfather who still lives in the same poor Bukharan Quarter in which he grew up. “Despite all of Israel’s advancements in medicine, agriculture, and technology, one-third of Jewish children live under the poverty line. That is a fancy way of saying they are hungry. I know, because I’ve been there.”
“Even when we had very little food for four children in our home, my mother always gave some to neighbors who had less than we did,” Lurie recalls. “I was raised from a young age to care about others no matter what our own situation was.”
Today, with an overwhelming 1.025 million Israeli children living under the poverty line, Lurie’s organization has its hands full. “We have so many requests, and it tears my heart that we have to put people on a waiting list for a food parcel,” he says. “The world views Israel as an affluent nation and Mexico as an impoverished one, but if you look at the statistics in the Latet report, Israel is ahead of Mexico in having the most hungry children. That is unbelievable. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and ignore the plight of the poor; not just those who live here, but friends and supporters of Israel around the world have to help us ensure that no child in Israel is deprived of food.”
To help support Yad Ezra V’Shulamit, please consider making a donation today. Go to www.yadezra.net