Challah rolls, chicken, soup, fish, potatoes, rice … these are the basics found on most Shabbat dinner tables.
For a good number of people in southern Israel, however, getting these staples with rockets raining down from Hamas in Gaza for the second week in a row has been more than difficult.
And on Thursday evening, the Israeli government ordered Israel Defense Forces into Gaza, putting even more pressure on Israelis living closer to the border.
Aware of the critical situation facing some in the south—particularly the elderly and economically distressed families—the Israeli government asked Colel Chabad to step in on Wednesday to provide Shabbat meals to those in need.
More than 2,400 people in rocket-battered cities like Netivot, Sderot, Eshkol, Sha’ar HaNegev, Sedot Negev, Merhavim, Ofakim and Nof Ashkelon will receive the already-prepared foods.
While filling an order that large may sound like a daunting task, especially with only two days notice before Shabbat, it’s more like business as usual for Colel Chabad and its affiliates.
“There was no panic,” says Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad. “We can handle it, and the people we work with can handle it.”
Providing food to those in need is nothing new for the organization, which was begun in 1788 by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. By creating Colel Chabad, the Alter Rebbe was able to provide support, especially food, to Jews throughout Israel, including fledging Chasidic communities in places like Tiberias and Safed.
In fact, Colel Chabad is the oldest continuously operating tzedakah (charitable) organization in Israel.
Volunteers in Sderot help package food for the needy. (Photo: Colel Chabad)
‘A Primary Concern’
“Food has always been a primary concern of Colel Chabad because no man, women or child should ever go hungry,” says its chairman, Rabbi Sholom Duchman.
On an average day, the organization provides 3,400 meals a day for people on their food-delivery program for the homebound and a network of 22 soup kitchens throughout the country.
In addition, some 5,000 families receive two boxes of food filled with needed foodstuffs and a case of root vegetables once a month.
Colel Chabad was more than likely picked by the Israeli government to deliver the Shabbat packages because of the relationship the two maintain when it comes to providing staples to those who need aid.
“We run the national food-security program in 24 cities throughout the country from north to south,” explains Traxler. Under the program, when individuals apply for food assistance from the welfare department of their local municipality, they are referred to a social worker from Colel Chabad, who helps make sure they get the supplies they need.
As for the people who will be getting fare this Shabbat, Traxler says: “These are people who are already suffering. They were suffering before war came; this only adds to their panic and stress, making it worse.”
Rabbi Moshe Zeev Pizam, right, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Sderot, with volunteerspacking food for Shabbat. (Photo: Colel Chabad)
Some of the thousands of challahs that will be delivered before Shabbat. (Photo: Colel Chabad)