Last month, we were invited to our Canadian friends’ daughter’s bat mitzvah. It was a three-part celebration with different invitations and groupings for each. The Torah reading in Jerusalem was for family only, but Philippe, Daniella, Simone and I were invited to the party on the rooftop of a night club in Herziliya, across the street from the beach. The most meaningful part, however, preceded both, a mother-daughter sandwich-making morning at Leket, which Simone and I attended.
Told to arrive at 7am on a Wednesday before school with our hair up and closed-toe shoes, we headed for Raanana’s industrial area with the diagramed instructions in hand. After turning in several circles, Simone and I finally found the low warehouse building and dirt parking lot. Some half a dozen Leket trucks and a handful of SUVs and minivans sat and sizzled in the sun. We raced into the main building and immediately spotted a smaller room where our group was gathering just in time for the head volunteer/local mom to pass out plastic aprons and gloves along with Leket baseball caps to each of us.
Huddled together, we listened attentively to this woman explain about the program. We learned that more than one-third of Israeli children live below the poverty line, around 850,000 of whom are hungry. Many attend school on empty stomachs and have difficulty concentrating on their studies. Thanks to the efforts of the Sandwiches for Kids project, each morning hundreds of volunteers in 24 cities prepare over 7,000 sandwiches, which are then supplemented with rescued fruit and dairy products, also provided free of charge to those in need.
In Raanana, a thriving city 15 minutes north of Tel Aviv whose residents are mostly Israeli with large populations from English, French and Spanish speaking countries, we tend to think or assume that everyone lives with ease in above-average surroundings. Yet despite the visible prosperity—lush, tree-lined streets and constant new construction—Leket delivers sandwiches to a handful of Raanana’s school children every day. Even here kids go hungry; we had no idea.
The woman in charge divided us up according to different tasks: slice rolls, mix the white cheese and olives, spread cheese on bread, wash and pack apples, bag sandwiches. Eager to help, we formed assembly lines and waited for those in front of us to finish and for those behind us to pass. We celebrated the start of a new year, the last of the holidays and Yara on becoming a bat mitzvah. On this video, Simone and her friends are busy at work, all smiles, happy to help.
An hour later, we had finished packing about 350 lunches to be delivered to a few schools in Raanana as well as in the neighboring towns of Herziliya and Kfar Saba. The girls left for school while a few of us stayed to load our cars and deliver the goods. My friend Anna and I inched our way through traffic to drop off about 10 bags at four different elementary and middle schools in Kfar Saba to the east. Each time we pulled up alongside a building, a guard greeted us warmly, thanking us for our packages. Our work for the morning might have been finished, but the message has not been forgotten.
A month has passed. It is now late November and, after a full week of rain, the sun is shining strong, again. All the trees have their leaves and the flowers are continually in bloom. As soon as 5pm hits and the sun sets, there is a distinct chill in the air, making us reach for a fleece or extra layer. Nothing about it feels like late fall or Thanksgiving for that matter. Yet, last Thursday, we joined friends (American, South African, Israeli and Canadian) for a festive meal with a massive turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, green beans, salad and pumpkin pie. We are so grateful, not only for the abundance of food and the friendship in our lives, but also for the freedom and ability to be able to reach out and contribute in some small way.