Inside Meir Panim's soup kitchen 'restaurants'

Meir Panim provides free hot lunches and a pleasant atmosphere to those in need. "Humbled by our ability to continue this work."

Yoni Kempinski,

Meir Panim 'restaurant'
Meir Panim 'restaurant'
Yoni Kempinski

Arutz Sheva visited the Meir Panim restaurant-style soup kitchen in Jerusalem, speaking with staff and volunteering in kitchen operations to get an idea of what Meir Panim is all about.

“Meir Panim is a set of relief centers here in Israel which provides opportunities for Israelis in need. In each different center we have different things we specialize in,” said Mimi Rozmaryn, Meir Panim’s Director of Global Development. “Here in Jerusalem we have this free restaurant which provides hot lunches to hundreds of people a week who don’t have anywhere to be.”

Ellen Tilles, a volunteer with Meir Panim, said that her main mission in coming into the Meir Panim restaurant every day is “to actually feed people.”

“I see these people around the city eating out of garbage cans. I would rather they come here and we give them something fresh.”

Tilles related her history of volunteering with Meir Panim. “When I first started to volunteer here in 2012, I had not yet made aliyah. I was here only for six weeks each winter, and I fell in love with the people who come here. Eventually I made aliyah with the intent to come here, and that’s what I do Sunday to Thursday, I come here each day.”

Tovi Galili, a volunteer who works for the Hebrew University, says that the university has been sending its students from all over the world to volunteer at Meir Panim “and have a chance to see Jerusalem in a broader sense, not just going to the Kotel or Shuk Mahane Yehuda, but also to see Israelis, to see what Israel looks like. But it also gives them a sense of purpose.”

Rozmaryn explained that the food for the restaurant is “donated from local hotels, event halls and individuals that have excess and don’t want to see the food go to waste and the environmental impact of the food being thrown away, and want to help provide an opportunity for people who want to eat.”

Volunteers say they aim to provide visitors not just with food, but with a smile and a pleasant atmosphere.

“We don’t want them to feel like what they deserve is in the garbage. Here they can sit down, and now there is this beautiful dining room, and it makes it much easier and prettier for them to come here,” Tilles said.

“We wanted this restaurant to feel like any other one in the city,” Rozmaryn noted.

According to Galili, “There’s no questions about who you are, why you’re here, we don’t necessarily know why people need what they need, but we maintain the sense of dignity that you can come into a restaurant and have that feeling of being served and not have to feel that’s it’s about having to ask for a hand, it’s just giving - for its own sake.”

Rozmaryn explained that the restaurant is able to continue its daily operations by virtue of “donations we receive from people all over the world who want to support the folks that are here, want to support Israel, and want to support our efforts. So we are endlessly appreciative and grateful and humbled by our ability to continue doing this work every day.”

Tilles said that the feeling she gets from volunteering at Meir Panim is one of “absolute joy.”

“It’s just a pleasure seeing people being able to eat, being able to sit. It’s like my mission - to make people feel comfortable.”




top