PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth-based non-profit Mercy Chefs is serving meals to people who have been impacted by the war between Israel and Hamas, with many having been living in bomb shelters for three weeks now.
Mercy Chefs said a lot of families they’re serving are living on edge, not knowing if they’ve seen the worst of it, or if more is yet to come.
Currently, the group is based in central Israel, and is preparing 1,700 to 1,800 hot meals per day — mostly dinners — getting meals out all over the country to those in need.
“From the central kitchen, we are able to push those hot meals all over Israel, into the southern portion Ashkelon, Ashdod,” said Carl Ladd, Mercy Chefs vice president, “as well as people around those cities and people in Central Israel and in the north that have been displaced — either from the south or the north, as there’s about 15 communities that have been mandatory evacuated from the north with the border of Lebanon.”
They’re also preparing grocery boxes and getting those to communities around Gaza.
Last week, they gave out 1,000 grocery boxes. This week, Mercy Chefs is preparing 1,500 and next week they’re planning on at least 2,000.
Ladd said a lot of people aren’t working right now and school isn’t in session, so many don’t know where their next meal is coming from. He said Israel is a close-knit country, and with their required service, almost everyone is affected.
“Everybody has a sibling that’s been called up to the reserves,” Ladd said, “or a father, a mother so the ones that weren’t called up are at home wanting something to do.”
Ladd said that’s where most of their volunteer base is coming from.
He said they’re coming from all over the country, some even traveling an hour-and-a-half each day to get there, in order to deliver food to those in need.
“Sometimes they’ll look at it and start crying, sometimes the kids will get excited wanting the dessert or the fruit right away,” Ladd said. “Their reactions are humbling, honestly, to watch people respond in different ways, as you know many of the people we are serving are still in bomb shelters that they’ve been staying for three weeks now. The kids will be playing soccer down in there and you bring in dinner and they get excited to eat a hot delicious meal.”
Ladd said usually when they go into disaster zones like a hurricane or tornado, they’re coming to help the community get back on their feet, but here, it’s much different because there’s no end in sight. He says seeing people coming together though is humbling.
“We see Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis, everyone coming together,” Ladd said. “Conflict is a terrible thing, war is a terrible thing, but in the midst of it, you also get to see the best of humanity and people putting aside their religious differences, their ethnic differences and realizing there’s people in pain on both sides of this.”
In addition to the response in Israel, Mercy Chefs Global is actively supporting local ministries that are responding to Mexico following Hurricane Otis.
If you’d like to help with either mission, click here.