Every year when the holiday of Purim arrives, Jews around the world gear up to celebrate by fulfilling the day’s commandments, which include dressing up in costumes, eating a festive meal, and giving small packages of treats to friends and neighbors.
Yet for many less fortunate families throughout Israel who struggle to provide their children with even the most basic necessities, holidays are usually filled with utter disappointment. While their friends display the most beautiful costumes, needy kids dream of having a single mask to join in the fun. They watch from the sidelines as neighbors, family, and friends receive gift baskets filled to the brim with the kinds of goodies they can only fantasize about.
It was in 2004 when Ilanit Hafuta, Director of the Meir Panim branch in Or Akiva, discovered the truly dire need in her community after an especially emotional experience left her in shock. Hafuta explained that she encountered Jacob (name changed), a participant in an after-school club organized by TikvaHope, which provides children from disadvantaged families with tools to break out of the cycle of poverty and become independent members of society. Jacob was “crying his eyes out one day.” When she asked him why he was so upset, “he looked up at me with large, tearful eyes and said that he was embarrassed to attend his school Purim party because he had no costume to wear and his family had no money to buy him one,” Hafuta said.
It was this moment that awakened Ilanit to the reality of hundreds of needy children like Jacob, who yearn to join in the Purim fun but are held back because of their families’ financial limitations. She decided then and there to provide every poverty-stricken child in her community with costumes to wear that Purim at no cost to them.
What started as a local project has blossomed into a nationwide mission to bring Purim joy to those who need it most. Just this year, over 100 needy children in Or Akiva alone delightedly wore their costumes throughout the holiday. Hafuta was thrilled with the outcome. “The idea that any child should be embarrassed to attend school because they don’t have anything to dress up in is heartbreaking. Now, not only does each child have a costume, but we do our very best to provide them with their dream costume.”
Mirroring the miracles that God performed for the Jews in the Purim story, TikvaHope is making miracles happen in their own special way. By giving the Purim gifts everyone would hope to receive, Israel’s less fortunate finally have a way to “join in the national celebrations in a dignified and warm atmosphere,” said Hafuta.
“For those who can’t afford to provide even the simplest of necessities for their families, holidays can be an especially painful time,” Hafuta continued. “TikvaHope enables these people to ‘feel like everyone else.’”