Families who visit Israel, on vacation or to celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or other family milestone, often ask to include a volunteering activity in their itinerary.
Shatour has a long list of Israel volunteering activities that we recommend, and one of the most popular is Pantry Packers® in Jerusalem. This is the food distribution arm of Tzedakah Central run by Colel Chabad, which has been distributing food to the poor in Israel since 1788!
Every month Pantry Packers® delivers crates of food and household supplies to Israel’s poorest families and senior citizens. Much of the work of packing these crates is done today by visitors from local schools and companies and tourists from overseas at their Jerusalem distribution center. People of all ages can join in the fun of collecting and packing the products for distribution, and they even provide a coloring corner for young children who do not want to participate.
The packages are delivered each month to needy families. They generally contain non-perishable household food items, potatoes and root vegetables, as well as standard household cleaning products and other consumables. Seeing what goes into these packages can inspire important conversations with children about poverty, charity, and the essential items that families need.
One of the reasons that Pantry Packers® is so popular is that it feels good to do good. Volunteers know that every item will be received with a smile by individuals and families who are in desperate need of help at a very basic level. The recipients are carefully screened by the social services departments of local municipalities throughout Israel, which means that professional social workers have verified that each individual is a needy case. They also represent a random cross-section of Israeli society, from different ethnic backgrounds and all levels of religiosity.
Pantry Packers® is just one of the many organizations in Israel that are helping to provide nutrition security to needy families. Although Israel has a fast-growing economy and impressive infrastructure, it is easy to forget that the country has to spend a high proportion of its income on crucial defense equipment and a standing army, leaving less money for social projects. Also, Israel has absorbed millions of immigrants over the past 70 years, many of whom have not succeeded in integrating into the job market and supporting their families. These two factors explain why there is still extensive poverty and food insecurity in Israel, particularly in peripheral communities that tourists are less likely to visit.
Look out for our monthly Israel Travel Blog feature on Israel Volunteering Activities, and talk to Shatour about including a volunteering activity in your next visit to Israel.