What do the Iron Dome, Waze, USB stick, hunger, and poverty have in common? They all stem from Israel.
Today, Israel celebrates its 70th Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut). Known as the “Start-Up Nation,” last year, Israel ranked second by the World Economic Forum for innovation.
With its technological advancements, medical ingenuity, and humanitarian aid, one would think that it could resolve one of its most pressing challenges: poverty. Yet, Israel continues to fall short in bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] continues to report that Israel has one of the highest poverty rates of any developed country,” told Goldie Sternbuch, director of overseas relations for Meir Panim charity organization. “Our restaurant-style soup kitchens, located throughout Israel, fill with people of all ages looking for a hot, nutritious meal, often their only meal of the day.”
As the Ministry of Economy and Industry, in conjunction with Ynet, recognizes Israel’s most prominent inventions and technological advances, as part of the country’s celebration of 70 years of independence, Meir Panim is using its own ingenuity to help struggling individuals and families celebrate today and have a better and productive tomorrow.
Seeking to stem the vicious cycle of poverty, Meir Panim supports a network of innovative social welfare programs. In addition to their soup kitchens, they run after-school programs, which include fresh food for the children, as well as tutoring, summer camp programs for at-risk youth, and vocational training programs.
“Meir Panim finds that many of our patrons come from broken, single-parent homes where even working parents find it impossible to make ends meet,” said Sternbuch. “People take food from our restaurants in order for their children to have, not only fresh food but also a feeling of a proper home, with food in the refrigerator.”
Of the nearly 9 million Israeli citizens, 1.7 million live in poverty. In addition to dealing with their daily struggle for food, impoverished people tend to lag behind in education, as a hungry person cannot concentrate on studies and malnourishment affects brain function.
“If Israel is to remain at the top of the list for innovation and ‘a light unto the nations,’ we need to take seriously the country’s poverty rates,” continued Sternbuch. “Whatever we do today helps build Israel’s future success tomorrow.”
“A State of the Nation 2017” study, primarily from Taub Center research, notes that Israel has one of the highest costs of living in the OECD while large parts of the labor market earn very low wages. This discrepancy will potentially negatively influence Israel’s standing in ingenuity.
Israel has developed tremendous advances to provide safer food and cleaner water worldwide. The country has been on the cutting edge of cures for cancer and early disease diagnosis.
Israelis have travelled the world, easing the suffering and saving lives of those struck by earthquakes (Nepal, Haiti, Mexico), typhoons (Philippines), and other natural disasters.
Known for their “chutzpah,” Israelis resolve problems and pioneer new ways to solve old problems. Now, it seems, the time has come for the country to focus on innovative ways to sustain the lives of their own citizens. In the meantime, organizations like Meir Panim develop their own innovative ways to help those in the Holy Land survive and thrive.
To donate to Meir Panim’s network of social welfare programs, please click here.