A Blessing and a Curse

February 12, 2019

3 min read

Israel has been blessed with unusually strong rains and even snow, helping to alleviate a five-year-long drought. Though a welcome reprieve, these blessings lead to unique challenges for Israel’s impoverished citizens.

“It’s hard for many of us to imagine that people are so poor that they cannot afford the ‘luxury’ of heat,” explained Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, administrator for Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charity, to Breaking Israel News. “While some people might take for granted a warm home or warm meal, in Israel, so many people, especially poor elderly and Holocaust survivors cannot afford heat along with food.”

Israel’s cold can penetrate more severely for several reasons. Firstly, apartments are built with cement walls and stone floors and are often poorly sealed. This leads to inside temperatures being even colder than outside ones.

Additionally, heat is supplied by either air-conditioning units which blow warm air, electric floor radiators or dangerous and foul-smelling kerosene heaters. Should these even be available to Israel’s struggling citizens, the price to run them is often prohibitive.

The frigid forecast has led Israel’s Ministry of Health to issue an advisory for the elderly and infirm stating: “The elderly are more susceptible to the effects of cold weather.”

As part of the Ministry’s recommendations for the elderly in the cold, they shared information about hypothermia, a condition in which body temperature drops to below 35 degrees or less, that can cause multi-system injury and increased mortality.

“At an older age and among the elderly, the danger of exposure to cold and of hypothermia is particularly high. Even a mild drop in environmental temperature is already a risk of reduced body temperature,” the Ministry notes. “The danger presented by the cold to older adults is elevated due to a combination of bodily (physiological) and behavioral factors. Elderly persons with conditions of chronic illness and multiple medications are more vulnerable to the cold and elderly persons with poor nutrition are more vulnerable to the cold. Moreover,  there is sometimes a tendency to heat the homeless in order to save on heating costs.”

Magen David Adom rescue service notes that the elderly are the most affected by a cold snap, urging family members to remain in regular contact with elderly relatives. However, for many, especially survivors of the Holocaust, there are no family members. This places an added responsibility on social welfare and charity organizations.

For organizations like Colel Chabad, which has warmed the bodies and souls of Israel’s impoverished citizens since 1788 through its extensive network of social welfare programs and caring individuals, effective winter care requires a whole new level of planning.

“For winter, we run a Home Heating Program to help those suffering from bone-chilling cold and hunger,” explained Rabbi Lipsker. “Especially in Israel’s mountainous north and Jerusalem, poor households cannot afford heat, proper winter clothing, warm blankets or sometimes even food.”

Colel Chabad covers all the bases when it comes to their programs for helping people with dignity. Not only does its Home Heating Program provide space heaters, blankets, warm clothing, and fuel, it also subsidies electric bill payments, ensuring that Israel’s poorest citizens are cared for and warm.

“We pray that people will share their blessings with others by helping warm cold Israeli homes with their hearts and generosity,” smiled Rabbi Lipsker. “This is truly a way to turn the curse of winter weather on impoverished people into a blessing.”

To donate to Colel Chabad’s Home Heating Program, please click here.

Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.

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