Jerusalem — Since the start of the latest wave of terror attacks, many of them stabbings carried out by young Palestinians, most Jerusalem residents have opted to stay close to home out of fear for their safety. Once-bustling shops and restaurants are now struggling for business.
Although the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it was during the dark days of the first and second Palestinian intifadas, when hundreds of establishments were forced to close due to a lack of customers, “Jerusalem is pretty empty these days,” Eitan Morgenstern, a city resident who launched a grassroots campaign to help out local business owners, told The Jewish Week.
Publicized via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, Eatifada encourages locals and tourists to dine in the country’s restaurants and to take a photo of themselves in the process. People post the photos and challenge their friends to eat out, and so on and so on.
“Terrorism isn’t able to defeat our people, but it does damage our culture and lifestyle,” Morgenstern said. “The response to the Eatifada has been very positive,” from both owners and diners.
Determined to offer a helping hand and a morale boost during this difficult time, thousands of Israelis are making a special effort to perform acts of kindness to help struggling businesses and especially the men and women guarding the country.
And like Eatifada, some of the most popular initiatives are related to food.
The Muffin Boutique, a popular downtown Jerusalem restaurant, is offering on-duty police officers, soldiers and medics free or subsidized meals, either at the restaurant or in the field, and Tsahal Pizza is also delivering pizza and other food items to soldiers all around Israel. Both eateries have programs that enable people to sponsor meals.
The International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) recently launched a global campaign, Eat 4 the Sake of Jerusalem, “to bring back smiles to the citizens, and patrons to local businesses,” according to Daniel Meyer, the organization’s director.
“After seeing the eateries in downtown Jerusalem empty due to the current security situation, we immediately knew we had to do something to keep them opened. While supporting them we also got the opportunity to cheer up the workers and residents of downtown Jerusalem and say thank you to the security and medical personnel on the front lines.”
Meyer said the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
Thanks to the many financial contributions from Jews around the world, some of them accompanied by “heartwarming messages,” the organization has been able to purchase hundreds of pizzas, ice creams, burgers, deli sandwiches and other items for soldiers, medics, police officers, and other security personnel.
The outpouring of support has been so generous that IYIM was also able to provide meals at Magen David Adom (Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross) headquarters in Jerusalem, and the campaign is now extending to provide food to needy residents of Jerusalem.
Arnie Draiman, a Jerusalem-based expert on charitable giving, noted that “people tend to give more during times of crisis in Israel.” He urged donors to vet a charitable initiative before donating to make sure the organization is both honest and efficient with the money it receives.
Residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, the site of an October terror attack on a public bus that killed U.S. citizen Richard Lakin and two other passengers, have banded together to ensure the border police and soldiers guarding their community are well-fed and feel appreciated.
Whenever there is a spike in violence and troops are deployed between Armon Hanatziv and the Arab village of Jabel Mukaber — several villagers from Jabel Mukaber have carried out terror attacks — “people bring them food daily, stores donate food or pizza places chip in with a pie,” said Molly Livingstone, an Armon Hanatziv resident. “We even get food from our kids’ after-school program. And the kids in the neighborhood make them care packages and cakes. It is amazing.”
Livingstone called the initiative a real grassroots effort.
“We have a Whats App group and core people that try to make sure the troops have food. We made a barbecue to feed dozens of soldiers throughout the city. We have midnight emergency runs for coffee. They like to drink Turkish coffee, that’s what I learned the hard way. We do what we can so they can do what they do best.”
Livingstone said the project “makes me feel happy that I am able to do something, even if it is small, for the soldiers protecting us. I value their time and effort on our behalf to keep us safe. I bring my kids along because these people are heroes. Every day they put themselves on the front lines. I want my kids to respect them. My kids can’t play outside without soldiers present. They have learned the soldiers’ names and look forward to seeing them on a daily basis. These soldiers should know they are loved and respected.”
Join Eatifada at facebook.com/eatifada, or www.instagram.com/intifada/. Those wishing to donate to the Muffin Boutique can e-mail owner Shmayra Richler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Eat 4 the Sake of Jerusalem campaign, go to www.jewcer.com/project/eat-4-the-sake-of-jerusalem.