Yael Eckstein delivering food for the holidays
Yael Eckstein delivering food for the holidaysAvishag Shaar Yashuv

As Israel prepares to head into the holiday season, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is launching a largescale support effort which will reach 100,000 families, seniors, Holocaust survivors, single parents, lone soldiers, and others across the country.

The IFCJ estimates that as many as one in three Israeli families lives in a level of poverty that forces them to significantly reduce spending on basic food items and utilities, encouraging the organization to release as much as 28 million shekel ahead of the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) holiday to help with the purchase of food and clothing.

“We see that we are amidst a particularly challenging period for the country’s poor, single parent families, elderly, and new immigrants fleeing their war-torn homes,” said IFCJ’s President Yael Eckstein. “Prices for even basic needs has gone up considerably and the demand on the welfare organizations around the country is simply skyrocketing and they are struggling to keep up. IFCJ is actively, and compassionately, working to respond to those demands and doing whatever possible to ensure the needs are met. All this is only possible because of the continued support of over 600,000 friends of Israel from all over the world who serve as our partners in this mission for the last 30 years.”

The holiday support is being distributed in cooperation with the Israeli Ministries of Welfare and Immigrant Absorption to single parents, those in public housing facilities and shelters, elderly and Holocaust survivors, new mothers, and others in need via a series of customized gift cards to be used for food, supplies and clothing. The tens of thousands of cards are distributed in partnership with government welfare branches and dozens of local organizations on the ground including Yad B’Yad, Latet, Eshel and Colel Chabad.

Among the beneficiaries of the holiday support are thousands of immigrants who have been forced out of their homes since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. More than five million shekel of the vast sum has been allocated to 5000 families via 10,500 voucher cards that can be used to buy food and other basic necessities. Based on the size of the family, each card has a value of between 500 and 1,500 shekel, and is accompanied by a Rosh Hashanah greeting in Hebrew and Ukrainian.

For Julia Evel, a mother of seven-year-old twin girls and a five-year-old boy, this will be her first Rosh Hashanah in Israel after she fled her home in Barnuvo, Ukraine, early on in the war. “On February 24th, an army base was being barraged near our home so I picked up the kids and went into hiding in a nearby cellar where we spent the next two weeks,” she recalled. “I had thought about aliyah (immigration) to Israel even before the war but I never thought I would have to run for my life.”

After a perilous journey she eventually made it to Israel.

“This Rosh Hashanah marks not just a new life for us but a sense of new hope,” she continued. “I hope the new year brings my family still behind in Ukraine here to Israel. I know that we couldn’t be here and be able to live and have our children enjoy their new home and lives without this support.”

Since the outbreak of the war, the IFCJ has assisted thousands of families in Ukraine with humanitarian aid as well as emergency evacuation of families and Holocaust survivors to Israel, providing them with food, medicine, and clothing along the journey, with support exceeding 18 million dollars.

Eckstein added, “It’s with a sense of real pride and responsibility that we are able to help these families make their first Rosh Hashanah in Israel something truly special and will hopefully allow them to at least temporarily leave the pain of the past year behind.”