Friday, April 02, 2004

I’m becoming increasingly nervous about the Passover food queues. They’re still showing them on the news and in the papers. Yediot Aharonot (Hebrew link) said that the people running these places say that thousands are continuing to show up and they are finding it difficult to keep order, not to mention that they were running out of stocks.

The paper says that some of the people in the queues were municipal workers who hadn’t been paid for months because of disagreements between their municipalities and the treasury (The treasury claims that these municipalities have squandered their funds and that they must become more efficient. I ask myself if the mayors of these municipalities, and their overpaid deputies in their fancy cars, have been doing without their salaries, these last few months).

The lady I know that runs a food project doesn’t have her people queue up like that in public. She certainly doesn’t have the press come and take pictures of the people she feeds. She prepares them parcels and brings them to their homes, with the help of a little army of volunteers. She gets the names from Welfare. I think that’s so much more humane. Dad also does “Meals on Wheels”, twice a week, bringing food to people right to their homes.

But a lot of people don’t like to go to Welfare, because you have the authorities sniffing around you all the time, trying to take your kids away or force you into a nasty home for poor old people, or something.

I rang up the food project lady to ask her what she thinks about the food queues. She was resting after working so hard all week, preparing parcels and bringing them to the families. She was tired, but happy to have been able to help so many. She said people had been so kind, donating money, and volunteering to help.

She said she thought the food queues were shameful. She said that besides them being extremely embarrassing for the people who had to stand in them, she thought them a very inefficient way to give out food. She said the likelihood of the food not reaching those who really need it was very high.

There are a lot of people who have no problem to stand in a food line and get something for free, even if they don’t really need it, and even if it means taking food out of the mouths of the really hungry. On the other hand, the really destitute probably find it difficult to get to the distribution centers, and even more difficult to schlep the food home once they have it. She added that the really needy are often the ones who are the most embarrassed to be seen in public receiving charity, the ones most struggling to keep up appearances.

She went on to say that a lot of ordinary people from the neighborhood in which she operates her project approached her and her fellow volunteers at their little warehouse place, this week, to try and get some free food. They could see them preparing the parcels and they wanted some too. Not because they were hungry, but because it was there and for free. She sent them all round to the local municipal welfare office. She said that when you have only so much to go round, you prefer giving it to people who have been vetted.

She said that the local municipality gave out more modest parcels to people who usually manage to get by, but were finding the holiday difficult to fund.

She described the parcels they gave out this year, all carefully measured and planned so as to last the families through the holidays. A family on her list is very lucky indeed! It took two men to lift many of the parcels, and each family got a crate of fruit and vegetables, as well. That’s so heartwarming.

Much as I am sorry for the people in the food queues they're showing on the news, I can't help feeling I am being emotionally manipulated. I know there are people in real difficulties, more than ever, but I don't know if they are the people in those queues. They always manage to stick some sly remark about Treasury Minister Bibi Netanyahu and his economic program into the article, or on to a corner of the same page of the newspaper. This is suspect in my mind.

There is good news, and that is that Israeli hi-tech is picking up at last. It had it on the news (can’t find an English link), and R.T., who works in hi-tech, also mentioned it. Maybe next year in Jerusalem, there will be less food queues and not more.

Shabbat Shalom