• Community

Raphael House Soup Kitchen, Eilat

Eilat is known to many in the UK as a luxury holiday resort, but like many cities there is a lot of poverty that remains invisible to most foreign tourists. Every day, many children go to school hungry, while adults of all ages also struggle to eat. Even those in full time employment can find it hard to make ends meet by the end of the month and consequently struggle to afford basic food.

Zilli Nehemya-Grossman is the inspirational leader of Beit Raphael (Raphael House), which helps needy people in Eilat. The organisation prepares and distributes 400 sandwiches every school day to local children and prepares and serves hundreds of hot meals daily to those in need. Using her skills as a radio presenter and former PR and advertising guru, she has broadcast regular shows on the radio since 1995 in which she recruits donations for the local community. Her mission started when she opened a shop selling women’s clothes, but soon found that her energies were diverted to helping a homeless man who lived nearby.

She eventually closed the clothes shop and opened a soup kitchen in Eilat, after being offered premises for a peppercorn rent of 1 shekel per year. She since has worked for over 17 years to feed the hungry. Unfortunately, the building from which she operated the soup kitchen was dilapidated and not fit for purpose. As well as sourcing money to prepare the food, she found she needed support to renovate the premises.

“I have to take care of them every day,” Zilli explains, speaking about those who require the services of the soup kitchen. “It is only thanks to the support of many good people that I am still here. JNF UK gave me the push to keep going. The place looked so horrible and I had no money to change it, so I was even considering closing it down. But JNF UK opened their hearts. It’s not just the money, now I feel that people really care. Now the place is amazing, beautiful and clean. We have a new kitchen, new toilets, new tables. Thank G-d for people who care, the ones who really care. It’s nice for poor people to have somewhere beautiful to eat in. We are really happy.”

Setting up the soup kitchen has transformed not only the plight of the needy in Eilat, but also Zilli’s own outlook on life. She feels that it can do the same for others who choose to support her organisation: “I have worked with very rich people and very poor people in my life. Ultimately all I want is to see people happy, and helping the poor is so important. Giving them food and assistance helps to make them happy.”

JNF UK is supporting other soup kitchens, just like Zilli’s. With the help of donors in the UK, we will ensure that more and more needy people are able to eat healthy food in a welcoming environment.