ICEJ Passover collage

ICEJ Delivers Passover Gifts to Israeli Families in Need

Passover is just around the corner here in Israel. There is much uncertainty about the current debate over judicial reforms, but Israelis are still preparing for this major Jewish holiday, which celebrates God delivering the ancient Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Yet for many Jewish families in Israel, Pesach also bring worries about whether there will be enough food on the table for the traditional Passover seder meal. Thanks to your generous donations, the ICEJ is assisting 800 needy Israeli families with Pesach gift baskets.

These gift packages, which include towels, soaps, gift cards, and other food and household items, are being distributed to families in Ma’ale Adumim, Netanya, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod, and many more communities throughout Israel. These gift parcels are hand-wrapped with love and care by our ICEJ staff to bless each family. Many of the recipients are new immigrants from Ethiopia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, as well as Holocaust survivors, pensioners, single mothers, and families just struggling to make ends meet.

As an ICEJ team delivered these holiday presents, they were met with outpourings of gratitude from the recipients. On one visit, a beautiful Ethiopian woman of 76 years repeatedly uttered toda raba [“thank you”] after hearing about the ICEJ and receiving her gift package. This woman, living alone on a small pension, made the difficult journey to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984 and now lives in Ashdod.

On the same day, ICEJ Aid assistant Jannie Tolhoek visited a woman with two disabled sons. Due to health problems, Marina had to leave her cleaning job before Corona struck. She still battles with several health issues but deeply desires to be back working. This visit was particularly special for Jannie, who was joined by Israeli social worker Ram as they walked through a poor neighborhood in Ashdod to her fifth-floor apartment.

“Before we could knock on the door, it flew wide open,” said Jannie. “Marina was expecting to see Ram, but when she saw me, a big smile came over her face. She straight away hugged me and told me how happy she was to see me again. The previous visit was just before Passover 2019, before Corona. She had not forgotten that time. She couldn’t stop smiling and sharing.”

“You bring so much joy by coming again. You didn’t forget me,” the lady exclaimed. “I know this gift package comes from Christians. Please, don’t forget to thank them.”

Afterwards, Ram told Jannie that “because of your visiting families at home to give them the means to celebrate the Pesach holiday, they are truly excited to see you again.”

A similar visit to Ma’ale Adumim also was quite memorable. Michal and Roi of the municipality explained the founders of the city just east of Jerusalem imprinted on residents the need to be loving and caring toward those in need. As such, the municipality regularly assists thousands of families in need – from financial difficulties to services for children with disabilities.

When the women at the distribution center were told that many Christians had donated towards the Passover aid project, their faces lit up in surprise.

“I am so excited,” one woman exclaimed. “Thank you so much!”

Continuing the Passover deliveries in Kiryat Gat, we met a beautiful group of Ethiopian Jews. This community is no stranger to the afflictions of the ancient Israelites in the Exodus story, as they, too, had faced oppression, hunger and peril when crossing barren deserts to reach Israel. Ten of the 75 family representatives who came to receive the Pesach gifts had made the arduous journey through Sudan to the Promised Land in 1984, a trek which claimed 5,000 Ethiopian Jewish lives.

Avraham, a community leader, teacher, and father figure, shared how hard it is to see survivors of that journey who are sick and discouraged today.

Still, the Ethiopian community members were excited when the ICEJ vehicle arrived, as they remembered the ICEJ’s previous holiday gifts brought to their homes over the past decade. Many women in brightly colored cheetah and flower-print scarves were eagerly awaiting our team. They joyously hugged each other and helped carry the gifts inside. One woman, a beautiful grandmother with pink glasses and failing eyesight, gave an extra big smile when she saw Jannie and exchanged greetings with her.

The Passover gifts brought smiles to their faces and hope to their hearts. Avraham told Jannie that the community suffers from lack of food and other problems, but what matters most is that they have a community upon which to rely. Two elders proceeded to speak blessings over the Ethiopian community and over the ICEJ and our faithful donors. Next, they prayed for health, happiness, and full tables for their community this Passover, as well as for the return of the ICEJ in 2024. Avraham added how proud he is to be working together with the Christian Embassy and how he always will tell others about our work.

Toward the end of the visit, a fragile grandmother beautifully dressed in a pink scarf and green dress carefully walked down the steps with a young man accompanying her to keep her from slipping. Upon stepping down on the floor, she lifted her arms towards us and softly uttered: “Thank you for coming and blessing us with such gifts of hope.”

These Ethiopian Jewish families were just some of the many Israelis in need that we blessed this Passover with holidays baskets.

Next, the AID team headed to central Israel, to the town of Nof HaGalil, close to Nazareth. Here 50 eagerly waiting new immigrant Jewish families from Ukraine witnessed firsthand a beautiful demonstration of Christian love towards them from a local Israeli Arab Pastor, Saleem Shalash.

Thanks to wonderful ICEJ friends from Finland, these Ukrainian Jewish families can truly celebrate this joyous “Exodus” holiday for the first time in their Promise Land! “We are so excited to be here during this special time of the year, Pesach. We know that Pesach and Passover are important holidays for Jews, and Christians as well. We want to bless you with a gift for this holiday. We are here to say that we love you and wish you a happy holiday,” shared Pastor Saleem as he distributed the gift boxes to the grateful families. Jannie too had an opportunity of sharing how the Christian Embassy cares for the people of Israel through the support of faithful Christian donors from all around the world. “These special Pesach gift boxes you are receiving today comes from Christian friends in Finland who love you and wish you ‘Chag Pesach Sameach’,” expressed Jannie.

We invite you to partner with us to provide hope and meet needs for struggling Israeli families.