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Hidden smiles come to light during Passover deliveries!

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19 Mar 2021
Hidden smiles come to light during Passover deliveries!

Reflecting on this week before Passover, the ICEJ AID team has been hard at work to accomplish a very tall order!

Sunday saw deliveries of boxes with holiday supplies arriving at the ICEJ headquarters in Jerusalem. The boxes were soon emptied as Nicole Yoder, ICEJ VP for AID and Aliyah, oversaw the effort to sort the contents into hundreds of Passover gift bags. Within hours, a sea of blue ICEJ gift bags filled the large assembly room. Each one contained a sparkling new cooking pot and dish towels, accompanied by a Passover greeting card with a food gift voucher, so those desperately in need can cook especially for their Passover Seder meal next weekend.

The sun had barely risen on Monday morning when the AID department’s jam-packed vehicle started out to deliver gift packages across Israel. Clocking hundreds of kilometers on the odometer, the AID team has been driving this week between Jerusalem and Ashdod, Beit Shean, Kiryat Gat, Netanya and other Israeli towns. Working together with local Israeli social workers to identify those in dire straits, the AID team then brought the gift bags and food vouchers with a smile either to homes or to a central location for pick-up.

In Beit Shean, a steady flow of people arrived to receive their gift bags and food vouchers, completing the distribution within only 90 minutes! Recognizing the desperation of many Israeli families in the current economic situation, ICEJ AID assistant Jannie Tolhoek remarked: “In previous years, only two-thirds of the people arrived within the first two hours of opening for distribution.”

ICEJ staff also received a very warm welcome from Etti, a social worker in Netanya. “You’ve arrived on a very special day, ‘Good Deeds Day’” said Etti. This is a day where Israelis can check with their city council to see where help is needed and volunteer to make a difference. “The ICEJ is making a difference in these lives, not just by the gifts, but by reaching out to them yearly and giving such a special touch through this Pesach greeting card which has a blessing on it” said Etti. 

Meanwhile in Ashdod, Jannie visited several homes to deliver gift bags and food vouchers to disadvantaged families. Esti, a single mother of five grown-up children – two of whom are disabled, lives in a run-down building. Her husband left 40 years ago when their children were small. Grabbing Jannie’s hand to express her gratitude, Esti said: “Thank you for coming, thank you for thinking of me. This year Pesach will be special, because I know that you gave us food on the table with a smile!”

Visiting next with Yitzhak, he wept while showing Jannie and his social worker, Ram, the mouldy and broken cupboards about to fall from the kitchen wall. Though Yitzhak works hard at a local supermarket, he does not make enough to maintain his house and care for his family. Underlining the essential role social worker’s play, Yitzhak shared: “Without Ram’s support, always calling and checking how I am doing, I may not be alive. He is my lifeline!”

Ram pointed out the unique challenges many of these Israeli families face this year, noting that “requests for help have increased 120%, more than double compared to last year.” Yet, a big smile beamed from both Yitzhak and Ram as they received the gift bags and food vouchers expressing Christian care and support from around the world.

The economic challenges have not spared local congregations either. Together with Pastor Birlie Belay, assistance was given to Ethiopian Jewish families in need, where our team was greeted with warm hospitality. Rachel, an elderly cancer survivor, refuses to allow her health problems to deflate an upbeat spirit and a gorgeous smile. Full of faith and gratitude, she repeated, “thank you, thank you, thank you!”, while receiving her gift.

“The Christian Embassy is our family. You look after us and support us,” assured Pastor Belay. “We are so grateful to the ICEJ for bringing our families to Israel by helping with the Ethiopian Aliyah. Thank you for helping us with these gifts as well, and for encouraging each person. Our words cannot express the impact that you made tonight by going to these families. They will remember you!” 

As Passover distributions continue over coming days, with many more families needing to be reached with food vouchers and holiday gifts, you too can be a part of bringing hidden smiles to light. Your giving helps to create a memorable Passover Seder meal for those in desperate need during this most important Jewish holiday. Please consider making a generous donation to this effort.
 


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