Following two mass immigrations from Ethiopia to Israel in 1984 and 1991, and a continuous flow of smaller groups since then, the gap between thriving Ethiopians compared to the general Israeli population has repeatedly made front page media reports. The good news is that the second generation of Ethiopian Israelis are thriving.
Yet, the income of an Ethiopian households is generally 35 percent lower than that of an average Israeli household if they are employed. Therefore, it came as no surprise to Aryeh Weingarten, Director of Karmey Chesed, when he received an urgent phone call from an IDF social worker concerning an Ethiopian soldier’s struggling family.
“Karmey Chesed is known throughout Israel as the organization which helps terror victims, gives aid to soldiers from low socio-economic backgrounds and IDF veterans, and many other challenged Israeli citizens who have nowhere else to turn,” shared Weingarten to Breaking Israel News. “Army social workers are in touch with Karmey Chesed all of the time because they know we worry and help soldiers and their families.”
Noting that it is very important to help those who put their lives on the line each day to defend the State of Israel, Weingarten explained the trials many families face financially when a family member must serve. “Soldiers make an extremely minimum wage. There is a growing population within the IDF that come from families who cannot afford basic household necessities and even food.”
Karmey Chesed has a special branch working directly with the IDF to ensure that soldiers and their families get what they need. There are seven mothers of IDF soldiers who work directly with army social workers and Karmey Chesed. They volunteer to keep abreast of who is struggling, whether emotionally, financially or because they are lone soldiers, and work to issue whatever aid they need.
“One of the mothers heard that there was an Ethiopian soldier in an IDF fighter unit whose home only had broken furniture, broken windows and didn’t even have heaters to use during the cold winter,” Weingarten told Breaking Israel News. “The army social workers checked the home and found it unlivable. The family has been in Israel for 10 years, have three children. But, the father is in Ethiopia.”
Hearing the story, Weingarten jumped into action. Utilizing Karmey Chesed’s “Green Chesed” program, which refurbishes second hand furniture and appliances and delivers them where needed, he provided the family with furniture, windows and heaters.
“Our team of volunteers worked tirelessly to replace the broken windows, removed the broken furniture and unusable freestanding closets [Israeli homes do not have built in closets], painted and delivered respectable furniture, including beds, a table and chairs, closets and heaters,” explained Weingarten. “Everything we do is to restore basic human dignity with compassion.”
Weingarten continued to explain that people cannot fathom the dire poverty of some populations in Israel. “Karmey Chesed is on-call day and night to help anyone in need,” he shared. “This Ethiopian family was so grateful. They said that we saved their life. There is so much more we could do with the right backing. Our only hope is that we get more funding.”