As the New Year approaches, I reminded of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to live and engage in service learning in such an incredible place, surrounded by remarkable people. For six weeks this summer I, along with Shirley, worked at Be’er Sova. Be’er Sova is a non-profit that has been the largest provider of food security and educational services in the Negev and surrounding region since 1999.
What distinguishes Be’er Sova from other community restaurants, apart from each meal being prepped daily, is the Be’er SovaMishpakha or family. One of the men who volunteers at the community restaurant, a grandfatherly Russian immigrant, is currently celebrating his Bar Mitzvah year of volunteering. This same man also typically only speaks in Russian or Yiddish while working at the community restaurant, not because he doesn’t know Hebrew, but because he wants to teach everyone Russian and Yiddish. I unfortunately cannot say my Russian or Yiddish improved (or for that moved beyond not knowing anything). Regardless of the fact that I never had any idea what he was saying, the gusto and bravado with which he spoke always brought a smile to my face. Most of the volunteers at the restaurant are older and have been working there for years. It was like having numerous bubbes and zetas watching out for you at all times. Not a day went by at the restaurant that at least one or two people did not try to force us to eat more food, or encourage us to sit down and take break, or drink more water. The meals-on-wheels truck driver is practically a local celebrity. As he drives down the road, bringing what might be the recipients only proper meal of the day, practically everyone who see’s him stops to give a wave or tip his hat. Jacqueline who leads the volunteer team at the garden will literally dance with joy as each new fruit blooms. The volunteers make this organization truly incredible with their commitment to each other, the mission of Be’er Sova and the Jewish Value of Tikkun Olam. The world needs more organizations and mishpakha’s, families, like Be’er Sova.
The story of Be’er Sova is the story of ordinary people deciding to take action to address a serious and heartbreaking problem within the community: hunger. Be’er Sova was founded to address the hunger and food security problem in Be’er Sheva and the surrounding Negev region that were so pervasive that men and women could be seen digging through the trash looking for something, anything to fill there stomachs. A blind eye could have been turned, blissful ignorance feigned and life would have continued; but that didn’t happen. If this mitzvah of people choosing to act to combat a social injustice rather than passively watch people dig out of trash with no where else to turn is not inspirational enough, than the current growth and direction that Be’er Sova is headed in is. Hearing about all the projects and avenues that Be’er Sova is exploring with the aims to move people from dependence to independence is enough to reaffirm my faith in the ability of a group of people to make a difference in the world.
Being part of the Be’er Sova Mishpakha, even if only for a few short weeks was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. A spirit of giving, compassion, and the commitment to helping others is embedded in the very foundation of the organization and every person who is a part of it. I am truly grateful I had the opportunity to work within and for such an incredible organization and group of people.