JERUSALEM — Winter arrived in Israel this week, and many residents across the country are struggling with the financial burden of heating their homes. Among the most sensitive population is the elderly, whose limited income is insufficient to cover even basic needs. Many are often forced to choose between heating their home or purchasing food, medicine, and other basics.
In response, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), in conjunction with Amidar, Israel’s national public housing company and a branch of the Ministry of Construction and Housing, launched an operation to distribute winter kits to 10,000 elderly residents in public housing across the country.
Distribution of the kits began about a week before the arrival of the current cold wave, and against the backdrop of a third lockdown in which many seniors are experiencing increased isolation and a lack of social interaction. The community initiative is being carried out by Fellowship employees, Amidar’s Community Relations Department and service centers, and numerous volunteers.
The winter kits include a heated blanket and scarf, along with vouchers worth about $100 for purchasing winter essentials. The distribution, which has Amidar and Fellowship representatives visiting the elderly in their homes, is being conducted under strict adherence to Health Ministry guidelines. Beyond distributing the kits, each visit is an opportunity to help alleviate loneliness and check on the well-being of each resident. The kits, which cost a total of $1 million, are also being distributed to residents of Amigour public housing across the country.
As part of the campaign, The Fellowship visited Lev Petrov, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives alone in Tiberias. “To my delight, there are organizations like The Fellowship that help me,” he said. “Lia Steiner, one of their field coordinators is always in touch with me. When the cold wave started, Lia immediately called and asked if I needed anything. I told her I didn’t have money to buy a blanket and she brought me one. It warms my heart that someone cares about me.”
“During these winter months, and after many months of being confined at home due to the coronavirus crisis, the plight of the elderly has worsened and even became more dangerous,” said Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of The Fellowship. “Especially during the coronavirus crisis, too many people face the inhumane choice between heating their homes and buying food or medicine. With the cooperation of local welfare departments, housing companies, and generous donors and volunteers, we are reaching the neediest among the elderly to ensure that they get through the winter safely.”
“We welcome this collaboration with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews,” said Amidar Chairman Yair Zilberstein. “I wish to thank their employees as well as Amidar employees and all the volunteers for the chance to make the tenants happy during this difficult period.”