February 15, 2009
Israel Diary – Israelâ€™s Young Activists
We recently spent some time in Israel making the rounds of many of the programs and individuals we have worked with over the past year. It is always special to visit with each of them and learn about how their work is going. The give-and-take in these meetings always benefits both parties.
In addition to seeing the â€œregularsâ€, we had a long list of new good people we wanted to meet and looked forward to hearing new stories of dedication and mitzvah-making.
No sooner did we land in Israel, spend a restless night getting used to the time change, and off we went! Who knew that on our very first day we would be impressed by a group of young Israelis (some American olim) who were actively involved in two specific mitzvahsâ€”lechem l’re’eyvimâ€”providing food for hungry people, and bal tashchitâ€”do not waste or, rescuing perfectly good food that would otherwise go into the garbage…
Jesse Fox and his brother Steven made aliyah several years ago and now call Tel Aviv home. After many visits to the famous Carmel market, Jesse soon realized that the vast quantity of leftoversâ€”fresh fruit, vegetables, pita, and moreâ€”that litter the ground at the close of business on Friday could actually feed hungry people…of which there is no shortage in that city. Specifically, Jesse thought about the many, many African refugees who have found their way to Tel Aviv and now reside in several shelters near the old bus terminal and Levinsky Park. He knew that most of them did not have a sufficient and reliable source of nourishment and what could be better than lots of fresh fruit and veggies? It seemed that there was one simple solutionâ€”gather the leftovers and deliver them to the shelters. But, how? Joined by his brother and two of their friends, Gilli and Daniel Cherrin, the idea for Fugee Fridays was born. What started with the four of them and a friend with a car who could help transport the many, many boxes of food they gathered each week, eventually became a group of several other Tel Aviv-area residents who learned of their efforts and joined in the rescue. Soon, some of the volunteers began to play with the refugee children or offer other types of support. In time, the group also delivered the gleaned food to other very poor residents of the South Tel Aviv areaâ€”there was more than enough to go around.
Now involved with this project for just a year, Jesse and his friends are planning other ways they might work on behalf of this refugee population. When we sat with them we asked what they might need to help them in their workâ€”it did not take long for them to come up with a wish-list. We thought that the idea of a t-shirt with the Fugee Friday logo would certainly help their volunteers as they gather food in the market each week, as would a sticker they want to give to the merchants who donate to them so that others would recognize their generosity. We told them to get some prices and the Good People Fund would be honored to become a partner in their work.
Fugee Fridaysâ€™ founders and the group of volunteers who work with them are impressive examples of the marriage between social activism and ecology. What could be better than feeding hungry people with food that would otherwise end up in landfill?