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Serving Meals That Make a Difference

ICEJ staff keeping Jerusalem kitchen ‘Hineni’ open

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Posted on: 
15 Jul 2020
Serving Meals That Make a Difference

Hineni, a community kitchen in the center of Jerusalem, offers hot daily meals for the elderly and poor, serving hundreds of needy recipients every day, both on-site and through home deliveries. (The name Hineni comes from the Hebrew word for “Here am I”).

Normally, this social outreach restaurant has a small full-time staff of a couple managers and cooks, and they rely on foreign Christian volunteers to come in from abroad and assist with preparing and serving the meals. Many of their volunteers are Dutch Christians, who faithfully serve at different times of the year in Jerusalem.

But the Coronavirus lockdowns and travels bans have prevented some of the regular staff from getting to work, while the foreign Christian volunteers have been unable to reach Israel to serve their time at Hineni. Without the normal staff and these Christian helpers, the kitchen would have to close down, and hundreds would be without food. This is where the staff of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem comes in!

Over recent months, the ICEJ staff have been rotating in to serve each day at Hineni and keep it open to feed the hungry and unfortunate, including a number of Holocaust survivors. Each day, at least three or four Embassy staffers are on-site, cutting vegetables, scooping up plates of food, and packing meals for home delivery. Even during the strictest lockdowns, the ICEJ staff were still considered essential workers and could come serve and package meals.

Benjamin Philip, the founder and director of Hineni, has been thrilled and relieved by the help of the ICEJ.

“Truthfully, I must say that you have been sent by God. I cannot say it differently,” he recently stated. “At the time when Corona started, we would have had to close down because our own workers and regular volunteers were unable to help due to various reasons. But the ICEJ came every day, which allowed us to stay open and continue to provide Israelis in need with daily help even in remote areas.”

“Hineni works closely with the Jerusalem social welfare department to provide hot meals and daily necessities to those in need,” Benjamin added. “Without the help of the ICEJ, it would have been literally impossible to do.”

Ryan Tsuen, the ICEJ’s graphic designer, has been excited to serve the Lord here in Jerusalem in this different way.

“For myself, the opportunity to volunteer with Hineni was an immediate Yes!,” said Ryan. “Back in Canada, I volunteered with a small charity which also served meals to those in need. We saw the immediate impact of providing food to those living below the welfare margin. So, when the chance to do something like that here in Jerusalem came up, I did not hesitate.”

“I realize the need for a nutritious meal, and Hineni does not disappoint,” he added. “They provide take-away trays as well as a sit-down meals for their patrons. Seeing the different ones come in is very special, because we don’t know the details of their background, or their challenges, but we know we are called to love others as Christ loves us. And when given the opportunity to love through this act of service, what more can you ask for?”

Irene Sands, housing manager for the ICEJ staff, is also grateful for this unique opportunity to serve the needy in Jerusalem.

“It has been special over the past few weeks to serve at Hineni,” said Irene. “Our work includes cutting vegetables and the ‘hugest’ sweet potatoes I have ever seen, packing boxed lunches for delivery, serving meals and helping to clean the venue afterwards. It has been refreshing and enlightening, working with the staff there and it is wonderful to see Jews, Christians and even their Arab Muslim cooks working together in unity.”

“It is always a blessing to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, and it warms my heart to see a smile appear from offering them more soup or pouring their water for them. As Mother Theresa said: ‘It’s the small acts of kindness that echo into eternity’. To treat them with dignity and to show love, is so important.”

Irene also noted: “I have enjoyed working with other ICEJ staff members who I do not usually work with that much, learning more about their lives and discussing their latest activities, all while dishing up food! It can be more physically trying than office work, but great teamwork helps.”

She added: “I want to say a word of thanks to the ICEJ’s supporters worldwide for enabling our staff to have this special opportunity at this unique time. I am most grateful.”

Indeed, it is such a blessing for the ICEJ to be the hands and feet of our Christian supporters here in Israel. Thanks to you, we are able to answer the Lord: “Here am I.”

Please consider a generous gift to the ongoing social aid work of the ICEJ during this time of the Corona crisis.


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