Irit Levy, 17, remembers the night, her and her friends, decided to sleep over at Meir Panim’s Sderot Youth Center. “After four “Tzeva Adom” red alert sirens,” Irit explained, “my friends and I decided it would be safest to spend the night at the youth center, a converted bomb shelter. ” Upon arrival, Irit and her friends were ushered in, by smiling reassuring staff members and volunteers. Tables of refreshments were set up, along with games and activities.
It is clear why so many other teens, kids, and families had sought out shelter at Meir Panim. Irit said, “We all feel so at home here. Many local children are enrolled in the after-school program, where they receive free lunch, one on one tutoring and fun activities. My friends and I love playing pool, participating in fun workshops and volunteering in community service opportunities.
Passover is a particularly challenging time for Sderot residents. Meir Panim’s professional staff has been working hard to meet the herculean task of providing Passover food baskets and personalized shopping cards to traumatized and impoverished individuals and families.
Meir Panim’s Youth Center: Refuge from Hunger and Terror
Following 10 years of continuous rocket fire towards Sderot, the city, nicknamed the “Bomb Shelter Capital of the World,” enjoyed a few years respite. Unfortunately, terror has returned to the area with a vengeance and the city of Sderot, with more than 26,000 people are suffering.
“The unemployment rates are deceiving,” explained Mimi Rosmaryn Director of Global Development at Meir Panim, “We have become acquainted with a new type of poor: the working poor. Many families who receive our assistance have at least one head of family working.
“The financial stability of so many families has been shattered, explained Rosmaryn, “we are desperately trying to ease their financial burdens, associated with the Passover holiday by providing Passover necessities like matzah to individuals and families.”
“I recently met a family” Rosmaryn continued, “whose children attend ours after school hours club. The father is gainfully employed at a nearby factory, but only earns about 4,000 shekels ($1,000) per month, is trying to pay bills and feed a family with five traumatized children.”
Meir Panim Sderot – Established in 2016
In 2016, Meir Panim spearheaded efforts to refurbish the Sderot youth club, frequently used by the local community as a bomb shelter.
“With Israel’s southern border once again suffering from terrorist activities, we are grateful that we have been able to help ease the suffering of Sderot’s children,” said Danielle Rubin, Project Director for American Friends of Meir Panim. “Our local youth clubs are providing a safe and comforting place for teens. They are serving as healthy outlets to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst the crisis.”
The youth clubs are located in converted bomb shelters. Should a red alert siren go off while the youth are in the club, they are already safe. “Meir Panim renovated the bomb shelters to make them feel more like relaxing spaces to hang out rather than places to hide from rockets,” continued Rubin. “These clubs provide traumatized teens with a safe place to socialize and expand their horizons.”
The renovated youth center is also used as a community center, with activities for young and old alike. During the week, the center is open after school until late in the evening, providing a safe and enjoyable haven for children to receive help with homework, healthy food, environmental education, positive social interactions, music lessons and more. Saturday nights, after the Sabbath, entertainment is provided in Russian for 50-60 women who come to hear music, lectures and watch performances.
This Passover, Take A Stand Against Hunger
In a few short days, we will start the Passover Seder and proclaim, “All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy, come and celebrate Passover!”
This Passover, Take A Stand Against Hunger! We kindly ask you to help Meir Panim fulfill its mission of providing a feeling of freedom from poverty, hunger, and loneliness to the people of Sderot’s neediest individuals. Say NO to hunger, by becoming a monthly donor and ensuring that Sderot’s hungry and poor receive lunch – every day.
Give $45, and Meir Panim can serve 10 lunches.
Give $135, and Meir Panim can serve 30 lunches.
Together, we can continue distributing hot lunches to children, meals at our Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen, and deliver Meals-On-Wheels to Sderot’s homebound, disabled and elderly.
Just as the ancient Hebrews were delivered from Egyptian bondage, let us do our part to help free those who continue to suffer the scourge of poverty in Israel.
Especially the impoverished families facing daily terror in the city of Sderot