ICEJ Passover Gifts Uplift Jewish Families Amid War

—By Nativia Samuelsen


Despite the conflict and uncertainty hanging over Israel, Passover still stands as a beacon of hope for deliverance and a new start for a nation facing constant threats. As Jewish families gathered this week to commemorate Israel’s liberation from bondage in ancient Egypt, they found strength in the enduring Passover story of perseverance and freedom. Even amid the challenges of the current war, Pesach remains a reminder of the resilience of the Israeli people and hope for the future.

The ICEJ AID team traveled all around the country over recent weeks to distribute more than 600 Passover gifts to Jewish households faced with immense hardships, and for many the impact of the war in Gaza and other fronts has exacerbated their difficulties. Each gift bag had soap and towels as well as a handmade card with a gift voucher to buy food at their local supermarket. During our traditional Passover distribution nationwide, we had some incredible encounters with Israelis in need.

Our first destination was Ashkelon, where each year ICEJ distributes Passover packages in collaboration with the local social welfare department. We were first guided to the home of Daniella (pictured above), an elderly woman who welcomed our team into her home with joy and excitement. Originally from the nation of Georgia, Daniella made Aliyah to Israel in 1970. Widowed and living alone in a small apartment, she has felt very alone over the last seven months of the war. When we gave the Passover gift, tears of gratitude streamed down her face. Daniella was immensely touched to know that she was not forgotten.

In another part of the city, we visited a dilapidated building where two families were struggling to make ends meet. Ruby, a hardworking mother employed in customer service, shared with us the challenges she faced in recent months. Nevertheless, with remarkable resilience, she went on to emphasize the importance of unity and solidarity within the community. Her daughter’s excitement at the visit filled the room with joy as she showed us photos of her family and jumped around the living room.


Next door, an Ethiopian woman, who immigrated over 30 years ago, diligently prepared her home for Passover, removing all leaven. Despite living in a cramped two-and-a-half-bedroom apartment shared with six children and four grandchildren, she remained strong and joyful and appreciated being surrounded by family. Her gratitude for the Passover gift shone brightly through a radiant smile.

The AID team also delivered gift packages to a social services office crammed with stacks of paperwork and weary faces, yet the social workers there were determined to help as many people in need as possible. With a heavy heart, Ram, a dedicated social worker, told us stories of hardship which painted a bleak picture of the lives of many in Israel right now. The rising inflation, coupled with widespread unemployment, have left many families in despair, especially those with breadwinners now serving their reserve duty in the Israeli army.


I often visit homes to find empty cupboards and empty fridges, a silent testimony to the agony they endure,” Ram said. “Thank you for remembering them and supporting them with these gift packages.”

“Shlomo, come in here!” said Hanna Atsabari, a social worker for the Mateh Yehudah region, as we visited another home.

Shlomo and his wife have battled daily with mental illness. Shlomo’s sporadic employment, lasting only a few weeks at a time before he required a break, has plunged their household into poverty. Their daughter was once a source of stability but is now serving in the army. Entering the room and seeing a gift for him, Shlomo’s face lit up with gratitude.


A few days later we drove to Kiryat Gat, where we met with Avraham, a social worker in an Ethiopian community that the Christian Embassy has supported for many years. He and the community welcomed us with big hugs and smiles and assisted us in carrying the gifts to the local bomb shelter where their community regularly gathers. With grape juice prepared on the tables, our hosts sat down and began our little welcome ceremony with prayers for Israel and the Kaddish blessing over the wine. We then gave out the Passover gifts and received warm thanks from the community members.

Days later, we met with evacuees from the northern border town of Shlomi still displaced after more than six months in hotels. Their faces lit up at the sight of our gifts. “What is this?” they exclaimed eagerly. Learning the gifts came from Christian supporters around the globe, their gratitude overflowed as bright smiles illuminated their once somber faces.

“It’s going to be a long road ahead,” remarked Hachzar, a tireless social worker, “but we remain hopeful for the future.”

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