PAYING SOCIETY BACK
Abraham was born in Egypt. In 1958, Abraham’s family had to flee their homeland due to persecution. They went to Paris and spent three years waiting for their visas to enter the United States.
In Paris, Abraham’s family ate at a soup kitchen.
“We lived in poverty for those three years,” says Abraham. “We fled with the clothes on our back, but we survived.”
For years, Abraham felt he needed to somehow give back to society and to help people who were in the same situation as his family once was. He says, “You should never know what it is like to have to depend on other people to feed you, but on the other hand thank God that there are these places that do give us nourishment in order to survive.”
Abraham lived in America and became a successful businessman. Nine years ago while visiting Israel, Abraham saw a young woman named Ronit with a cane trying to cross the street. Abraham helped her across and walked her to her apartment. He discovered that Ronit had no refrigerator and her sink was a bucket on the floor under a faucet.
At the time, she lived on 1200 shekels a month (about $300 US dollars today) and used it to buy her medicine. (Ronit had multiple sclerosis. She was Abraham’s first client and today she is still benefiting from Hazon Yeshaya.)
Abraham asked Ronit if she knew of any other people in the neighborhood living in this kind of poverty. She told him about some people across the street. He was stunned to see a family of six living in a room filled with nothing. Abraham took it upon himself to use personal funds to open a tiny kitchen with a stove. An elderly woman cooked meals for 17 people, three families. Every day, they would pick up the food from this cook. By word of mouth, the 17 became 50, then 100, then 200.
Today, Hazon Yeshaya prepares over 8,000 meals a day nationwide and is looking at further expansions. All are dependent on financial support.
365-DAYS A YEAR
Hazon Yeshaya is the only institution that serves meals year round, including fast-days and holidays. It is one of the only eight percent Israeli non-profit organizations that have a tax exemption because it has passed rigorous checks. They also have tax exemptions in America, England, and Canada. Because of their limited finances, Abraham is careful to whom his organization provides services. The organization checks, with the utmost dignity, every man, woman and child to make sure they are really in need.
Initially, Abraham took care of the sick and elderly who were unable to take care of themselves. Then, six years ago, many people lost their jobs in high tech or tourism. They would come between job interviews to feed themselves and their children. The middle class in Israel has virtually been wiped out, and the disparity between rich and poor is very evident and of the worst in the world.
Government statistics show that 31.4 percent (over 700,000) children live under the poverty line in Israel. In addition to the soup kitchen, Hazon Yeshaya also provides after-school extended day programs, nursery schools and vocational training for single mothers and those with no education or trade, and free dental clinics. Dedicated to providing essential services to people of all ages, Abraham believes no one should go to bed feeling the pain of hunger.
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