Hanukkah is a special time of year when families and friends unite for fun and food. But for Israel’s 765,000 children who live in poverty, Hanukkah is just another day of hunger and yearning to experience a festive spirit.
That is where Meir Panim’s TikvaHope Youth Clubs come into the picture.
Daniel Berkeley, manager of the TikvaHope Sderot Youth Department, shared that Hanukkah is a particularly special holiday when working with underprivileged teenagers. “Hanukkah is known as the holiday of lights,” he said. “These kids from difficult homes need as much light in their lives as possible.”
During the Hanukkah festivities taking place this week throughout the country, TikvaHope, located in Israel’s southern city of Sderot, held a celebratory event with over 50 neighborhood children. Some of the activities included games, face painting, and making the traditional holiday food sufganiyot – donuts.
Participants also built an outdoor Menorah, which was placed in the youth center’s garden. Additionally, teens involved with TikvaHope completed in the annual soccer tournament. “We work at developing team spirit at TikvaHope,” continued Berkeley. “It is important to the future of these youth that they understand how to give and accept care, love, unity and trust.”
Meir Panim and TikvaHope encourage those who receive to give as well. Therefore, as in previous years, TikvaHope youth went to the homes of elderly neighbors to join them in lighting the menorah and bask in the lights of hope that the holiday represents.
Meir Panim was established 16 years ago to provide both immediate and long-term relief to impoverished people, young and old, via nutritious meal distribution and social service programs. Meir Panim, which directly translates from the Hebrew as “lighting up faces,” has a particular affinity to Hanukkah.
“The theme of Hanukkah is to light up the places where there is darkness,” said Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim. “That is what Meir Panim strives to achieve every day of the year. We light up the lives of people who live, both physically and spiritually, in darkness.”