Israel’s southern town of Dimona has one of the highest percentages of impoverished people in the country. Yet, its residents were all smiles when its well-known free restaurant-style soup kitchen, run by the charity organization Meir Panim, re-opened following an extensive refurbishment. The event was attended not only by eager and hungry patrons but also by the Mayor of the city, Benny Biton.
“I am very impressed with how the donated funds were used efficiently and to their utmost to upgrade this welcoming facility,” said Mayor Biton, who attended the ribbon cutting. “I am proud to have such an important institution in my city and honored to show the great work Meir Panim does for our struggling citizens.”
Over the years, Dimona has attracted many new immigrants from India, Russia and a group known as the Black Hebrews due to its low-cost housing. However, quality jobs are in limited supply and adults and the elderly tend to be uneducated or unable to work. That combination calls for an increased need for the availability of social and welfare services to ensure that people have food to eat.
“Over the past few years, the staff at Meir Panim noticed a steady increase in the people coming to us for assistance,” said Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim, to Breaking Israel News. “The original trickle of patrons turned into a stream, which demonstrated the need for this renovation and expansion.”
Meir Panim’s soup kitchen provides fresh, nutritious lunches as well as prepared food packages for the needy to take home as well as Meals on Wheels for the homebound. It is also an important place for marginalized people in society to come and socialize.
“With this renovation, we have improved our system for providing people with the sustenance they need,” declared Sternbuch. “Now, the building is not only more efficient, it is also beautiful, warm and welcoming.”
In order to cover the cost of the extensive renovation, Meir Panim sought a partner. “We were fortunate to have the Mayor of Dimona join us in this endeavor,” continued Sternbuch. “In addition, local businesses cooperate with Meir Panim to provide raw food products required to feed so many people.”
Meir Panim hired an interior designer to create the building’s fresh and well-organized look and feel. As the patrons entered the newly designed facility, their faces lit up with surprise and joy. “The lives of people who struggle to survive are rarely filled with warmth, color, and a homey atmosphere,” noted Sternbuch to Breaking Israel News. “Our regulars could not believe all this was done for them and they were truly touched by such a caring gesture.”
Meir Panim maintains four other restaurant-soup kitchens throughout Israel. Their goal is to refurbish each of these as donations come in. “We will renovate and upgrade the other restaurant-style soup kitchens as soon as we have the funding,” Sternbuch said. “This way, we can handle the growing number of diners and provide much-needed take-out food in greater quantities.
Meir Panim meals are regulated by Israel’s Ministry of Health to ensure quality and cleanliness.
To donate to Meir Panim, please click here.