Israelis step up to help elderly, most at-risk from coronavirus

Volunteers across the country help deliver food packages to the elderly, who are most endangered by the virus.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s older population is at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and volunteers across the country are stepping up to help their elderly and disadvantaged neighbors get through the health crisis, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday.

Israel’s 9.2 million residents have been under stay-at-home regulations since last week in order to try and stop the spread of the virus. The elderly are the population group most endangered by the virus, and cities have taken steps to ensure they are being looked after.

“We have an obligation to the veteran population, and in times like these when they are in higher danger this obligation is doubled,” said Shuki Ohana, mayor of the northern city of Safed. Ohana worked with the city’s food stores to ensure that morning hours were for seniors only, allowing those not under home-isolation to buy food and necessities while limiting their exposure.

The city of Afula is distributing 1,000 food parcels three times a week to the elderly, new immigrants and the poor, leaving the boxes outside their doors to reduce the chances of infection.

The efforts are duplicated across the country from Ra’anana in the center to Sderot in the south, which is normally in the news for being the target of thousands of rockets fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“Especially during this time the city of Sderot is taking care of its residents, principally the elderly, including those who are in isolation and those who aren’t,” Mayor Alon Davidi said.

In Jerusalem, the city of 900,000 is operating on an emergency footing and hundreds of volunteers are assisting the community services department to distribute 4,500 food packages to the elderly, poor and others who can’t leave their homes.

The near total shutdown of Israel’s tourist industry and cancellations of events have seriously affected an Israeli charity group that in good times “rescues” leftovers from industrial kitchens and catering halls, including IDF bases, as well as surplus produce from farms and distributors.

Leket Israel normally distributes the food to 200 nonprofit organizations providing meals and food boxes to approximately 175,000 Israelis in need, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens and elderly centers.

“Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis we have had to come up with innovative solutions to enable us to continue operating,” the organization said. “We had to devise an alternate plan of how to serve the housebound needy population as well as the elderly.”

The organization said that under the emergency conditions it managed to deliver 2,879 hot meals on Sunday and hopes to nearly double that by mid-week.

“In parallel, our teams are continuing to rescue excess food and to deliver it to our partner non-profits throughout the country,” a Leket statement said.