It is not uncommon for me to get questions from friends of our ministry asking if people in Israel are “actually starving in the streets” like they may have seen from other non-profits raising benevolent funds.
Israel is frequently touted as the “Start-Up Nation,” boasting incredible technology and a multitude of entrepreneurial endeavors. Israel’s growth in 73 years is nothing short of astonishing—a divine miracle performed before our eyes. Despite all of this, hunger is still an issue, although not quite what is portrayed on television at times. When I walked through the Old City of Jerusalem or drove in more modern parts, no, I didn’t see fly-infested, barely-clothed children sitting in doorways dying of starvation.
Israel Under Lockdown
Much like the West today, Israel’s hunger problem is more covert but has become wildly inflamed by the global pandemic we are all experiencing. No community in Israel is immune to the immense suffering that occurs in an extreme economic and social shutdown.
No community in Israel is immune to the immense suffering that occurs in an extreme economic and social shutdown.
As of this writing, Israelis cannot travel outside 1,000 meters of their home unless they are involved in certain approved working groups, like first responders. With schools and tourism completely shut down, Israel’s economy is suffering and unemployment has skyrocketed from 4 percent in March 2020 to more than 20 percent in October. With a population of about 9 million, that is upwards of 1.8 million people without income. Many families are hungry for the first time ever. It is estimated that long-term unemployment will double and countless Israelis will return to work only on a part-time basis, leading to significant financial hardship. Single mothers, self-employed business owners, and the tourism industry seem to be the hardest hit.
Before the pandemic, the figures I had said that two in five Israeli children were hungry and without food. Without the benefit of healthy school meals, I can only imagine what that number is today.
It can be challenging to trust in the Lord in times like these when things are bleak, uncertain, even dark for those without income.
Unemployment can be a particularly fearful time in our contemporary society, with much uncertainty in how to fill the cupboards and grumbling tummies. Gone are the days when most people live on self-sustaining farms with an abundance of livestock and produce. It can be challenging to trust in the Lord in times like these when things are bleak, uncertain, even dark for those without income. Much like in the United States and Canada, Israelis live in a society with a supply and demand food chain, supermarkets, and corner stores.
Leket Israel’s Life-Saving Work
The Hebrew word leket means “to glean.” You may be familiar with this term. Gleaning is a biblical command given by God in Leviticus 19:9–10. The command is to leave the corners of a farm field unharvested so those who are poor or marginalized can gather the leftover crop to meet their most basic needs. As an example, Ruth gleaned from Boaz’s fields (Ruth 2:2). Gleaning provides a way for people with abundance to assist those without. Yet, it is not practiced much in the modern world.
Leket Israel is the National Food Bank for Israel and was founded on the concept of the Levitical command of gleaning. Today, Leket operates as much as possible in the gleaning method by gathering produce collected from the diverse agricultural community in Israel. Leket repackages and distributes the gleaned food to the most at-risk people throughout the Land. The pandemic has forced the food bank to pivot and buy food from suppliers to meet the growing demand.
In an emergency effort to help stem hunger due to unemployment in Israel, The Friends of Israel has teamed up with Leket Israel to help address the dire situation. Leket Israel has provided more than 1.8 million fresh meat meals and 31 million pounds of nutritious produce since the pandemic began. This is an incredible 18 percent increase over the previous year. Leket is providing as many as 11,000 people with meals in a single day! Most often, these meals are delivered directly to a recipient’s home by a Leket staff member. An estimated 30 percent of those receiving meals are elderly and shut-ins.
Thanks to your generosity to the Israel Relief Fund here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 232 people are going to be fed for an entire year through Leket’s meal programs. Praise the Lord! While this is incredible, with your help, so many more can be fed nutritious meals. The Israel Relief Fund is one of the simplest, most basic ways of living out God’s instruction to bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3) and to feed the hungry (Matthew 25:40).
The Israel Relief Fund is one of the simplest, most basic ways of living out God’s instruction to bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:3) and to feed the hungry (Matthew 25:40).
Beyond our relationship with Leket Israel, our field workers in Friends of Israel’s outreach ministries are addressing emergency needs and hunger in their local communities, delivering food and medicines to those in pandemic lock-down, quarantine, and suffering from unemployment. We have workers delivering potatoes in Ukraine, distributing medicine and cleaning supplies in Poland, food delivery in Las Vegas, and our front-line doctors in Argentina—who may be the only spiritual light in the darkness of an ICU where death looms. Your unfailing support makes all of this possible. Thank you.
I ask you to join with me in praying not only for the spiritual needs of our friends in Israel, but also for the Lord’s provision for the urgent physical needs of His Chosen People.
Many thanks to Leket Israel for most of the statistics in this article and the photographs.