Former German President Christian Wulff recently visited Israel on a fact finding mission. One of his unusual stops was to Meir Panim’s Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen in the Galilean city of Safed.
Wulff, a staunch and longtime supporter of Israel, had previously visited the country while in office in 2010. His recent visit to Meir Panim was coordinated by Senator h.c. Michael Keller, dedicated board member of Meir Panim’s UK branch, Manna.
During his time at Meir Panim’s Safed soup kitchen, Wulff demonstrated his continued commitment to the Jewish state and referenced the strong relationship between Israel and Germany.
Germany continues to be one of Israel’s staunchest defenders and most dependable allies. Germany’s foreign policy is clear on its position of Israel’s right to exist. In light of Israel’s geographical position as a democracy in the region, Germany’s support has been consistent.
President Wulff spent much of his day at Meir Panim discussing its unique system for operations with Branch Manager Benny Elgad. Elgad pointed out that the Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen welcomes anyone who walks through its doors, regardless of race or ethnic background. It serves as a true cornerstone in the Safed community where anyone who is hungry can find a hot meal and a friendly face.
“It was a true privilege to speak with President Wulff,” remarked Elgad to Breaking Israel News. “He spent hours here at the restaurant and really dedicated his time to understanding how critical this facility is to the residents of Safed. In fact, he was so inspired by Meir Panim’s work that he made a point to speak to the diners one-on-one and hear their stories.”
Elgad was visibly moved by President Wulff’s visit as tears filled his eyes. “It’s not every day that we get an opportunity like this, to have such a distinguished leader among us,” he said.
President Wulff served as Germany’s youngest president from 2010 to 2012, and is also an attorney. He currently works as a business consultant while dedicating much of his time to philanthropic causes.
Wulff learned how much of a lifeline Meir Panim is for so many Safed residents struggling with poverty. The soup kitchen is unique in that it is run similarly to a restaurant, only without the exchange of cash. Diners are seated and served by volunteer waiters, and served hot, nutritious meals in a dignified setting. No one waits on line.
Those who frequent the Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen are predominantly Safed’s elderly residents. Most live on fixed incomes, have little money for food and even less for recreational activities. Additionally, many have no family members or friends outside of the soup kitchen, making this place their “second home” of sorts.
Therefore, additional activities and programming are provided including speakers and workshops on subjects such as budgeting and Jewish studies. This branch even maintains an impressive choir, made up of its patrons, many of whom are Holocaust survivors. It a particularly moving moment during President Wulff’s visit, the choir gave an emotional musical performance.
Following Wulff’s visit, diners were touched to learn that the world has not forgotten them. “It made me feel so good inside to understand that we are not alone,” said Elsi, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who eats at Meir Panim every day and takes a container of food home with her for dinner. “I just don’t know how I would get by without Meir Panim’s restaurant and it is really an honor to have a visit like this.”
Across Israel, 1.8 million citizens go to bed hungry each night including 800,000 children. In addition to Meir Panim’s efforts fighting poverty in Safed, the organization runs a network of Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens in Jerusalem, Or Akiva, Tiberias, and Dimona. Meir Panim also provides Meals-on-Wheels deliveries to the elderly, homebound, and disabled; After-School Youth Centers; school lunch programs; vocational training; and holiday food packages.
“Meir Panim is thankful for President Wulff’s commitment to the Jewish state and for the time he dedicated to learning about the poverty crisis in Israel and the organization’s lifesaving work,” expressed Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of International Relations for Meir Panim to Breaking Israel News. “Meir Panim would like to express its utmost gratitude to President Wulff for his commitment to continuing this friendship and we hope that he will come again to experience some of our other crucial social welfare programs.”
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Written in cooperation with Meir Panim.