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Orna Raz

Day 117 Of The War: Vegan Meals As A Litmus Paper

Our busiest time at the restaurant
Our busiest time at the restaurant

Tomorrow will mark my last day volunteering at J17, the small vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv. Since the beginning of the war, J17 has been sending meals to vegan reserve duty soldiers on the front lines. When I started working there in the second week of the war, the restaurant was already in full production. Since I kept coming every day, I was quickly put in charge of packing the meals and delivering them to the volunteer drivers. We were very fortunate that every day, committed volunteers came to help out.

Within a week or two, World Central Kitchen joined forces with us, and we began preparing meals for the elderly in need in Ashkelon, a city in the south that has suffered greatly during the war. For almost two months, we prepared about 3000 meals in our tiny kitchen for both the soldiers and the elderly. The kitchen operated non-stop for almost 24 hours a day. I recall that sometimes, in the middle of the night, the restaurant manager would ask who was available to come and help out with cleaning or washing dishes. There was a sense that we were on a mission, and it was satisfying to know that we were part of a worthwhile project.

But then, the WCK project ran out of funding, and perhaps the elderly people of Ashkelon found other feeding options. Moreover, toward the end of the year, the number of meals we prepared for reserve duty soldiers dropped from around 1200–1600 meals a day to suddenly preparing only around 600. This drastic decline was the first hint that something had changed. At that time, we heard nothing, but I began to suspect that many reserve duty soldiers were released and sent home. It seemed that the war had entered a new phase. It took three more weeks to hear about the changes in the news.

Throughout January, the number of meals continued to decline. It is unusual to use that data as a litmus paper to gauge the progress and direction of the war. However, since we are told very little, and we suspect, with good reason, everything that the prime minister says or promises, drawing conclusions about the fate of the war from the number of vegan meals is not unfounded.

Since there are very few meals to prepare and deliver, I feel that my job at the restaurant has come to its natural end.  Now that my work for the reserve soldiers is completed,  I intend to be even more active in the demonstrations for the return of the hostages and the removal of Netanyahu and his corrupt government as soon as possible.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. .
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