Situated close to Tel Aviv's Carmel Market, in an old house which has seen far better days, a remarkable group of people are involved in a great chesed (kindness). Soadim, and other soup kitchens like it, have increasingly entered the public consciousness over the last few years as the economic situation in Israel has deteriorated and the Government has increasingly chipped away at the already meagre welfare payments made to the weakest sectors of society.
When I announced that I was running the Jerusalem half marathon in March, a colleague suggested to me that I should donate the proceeds of the run to Soadim. After collecting from all of my sponsors, I was able to present them with a cheque for NIS 7401. Another donor, also introduced to Soadim by my office, gave a larger cheque so that in total NIS 18,000 was handed over to help feed the needy.
I found the visit to Soadim to be both depressing and uplifting; depressing because I would never envisage Israel to be a state where the poor are reliant for handouts, not from the Government, but from concerned individuals who decide to get up and do something about a problem; uplifting because of the nature of the individuals who are doing the work.
Soadim employs a part time social worker and a full time chef. In my experience, there is no such thing as a part time social worker - the work follows them around and the only part time thing about the job is the salary. Full time social workers don't get paid brilliantly either. The full time chef, trained by Tadmor school, gives the food an ingredient which is often missing - love. I know how cheesy that sounds but the way in which the food is presented, the types of ingredients and the care that goes into it are incredibly important to the dignity of the people who rely on the place.
Those involved in Soadim and other similar places are doing a big mitzva. I felt guilty as I left that I hadn't raised enough money to help but at the same time, pleased with myself for at least doing something.....