Guy Lerer and Hatzinor staff joined United Hatzalah in handing out the first gift cards
Guy Lerer and Hatzinor staff joined United Hatzalah in handing out the first gift cardsGuy Lerer, HaTzinor

Israeli journalist Guy Lerer, from Channel 13’s “Hatzinor” television program, spearheaded a campaign to assist those in financial need as a result of the coronavirus economic crisis.

Utilizing money that was donated by people who received the government’s COVID-19 stipend and chose to donate it to the cause, Lerer raised 15,000,000 NIS ($4,462,626) and is distributing it to people who are in dire financial straits.

Lerer and Hatzinor teamed up with United Hatzalah of Israel and Pitchon Lev, creating a humanitarian dispatch center where those wishing to donate their stipends or those in need of assistance can call and speak to a volunteer who will help them go through the process of donating or qualifying for financial aid.

After calling the hotline, the recipient callers, whose information is kept extremely confidential, will be asked a number of questions to explain what their need is and what the money will be used for. Grants range in amount, up to a maximum of 5,000 NIS ($1,488). The money will be transferred to recipients via gift cards which can be used at a variety of stores, or via direct bank transfers if the assistance required is to pay bills. The process takes a few days from the time that the call for assistance was received. In urgent cases, gift cards will be hand-delivered to those in need by United Hatzalah volunteers.

“We are opening the humanitarian dispatch in two locations in Israel, one in Rishon Lezion, the other in Jerusalem,” Lerer said. “In Jerusalem, we are working out of United Hatzalah’s headquarters and in Rishon Lezion out of Pitchon Lev’s headquarters. The number to call for anyone in need of financial assistance is *4544, and we will be happy to help.”

United Hatzalah volunteer Naftali Benshaya, who is volunteering his time and answering calls at the newly organized dispatch center said, “Being on this side of the phone and filling out the request forms with the people in need means that I hear their stories, their troubles, and pain. People in their 50s and 60s are calling and crying on the phone saying that they don’t have a steady method of making sure that they have food to put on the table and that they are struggling alone, some even with a disability. This certainly isn’t easy.”

United Hatzalah Vice President of Operations Dov Maisel said: “Our volunteers are fielding hundreds of calls and assisting those who call with getting the help that they need in order to put food on their table or pay their debts or receive financial assistance for whatever hardship they are facing. This is particularly important right now, before the holiday season, which can be a financial burden on everyone, but especially on those facing severe hardships due to the economic crisis as a result of coronavirus. I want to thank our partners at Hatzinor for making this happen.”

Eli Cohen, CEO of Pitchon Lev, added: “We have dozens of volunteers from Ptichon Lev here fielding calls from now until the holidays from families who do not have food security. We will do everything in our power to make sure that they get what they need.”