This morning, after I finished my usual morning exercise, rowing on the Yarkon River, I strolled towards the Tel Aviv Port, on my way to the vegan restaurant on Jeremiah Street 17 (J17) where I volunteer. I won’t apologize for continuing my exercise routine during such a bleak period, since I believe that it’s preserve my sanity and possibility to care for myself and for others. I chose the longer route to the restaurant to allow myself some time to sit and look at the sea.
However, when I got to the bridge over the Yarkon River toward the Tel Aviv port, I unexpectedly encountered the photos of the Israeli hostages. This sight made me shudder, but I was grateful for the reminder: the hostages are with us all the time and everywhere.
Upon entering the restaurant, I received a warm welcome from the other friendly volunteers. Many people in Israel have dropped everything to help in any way they can. In my three weeks here, I’ve learnt many of their names. Earlier this week, I was asked to fill in and assist in coordinating the morning shift. It’s a significant project as we prepare thousands of meals and distribute them across the country. In the small kitchen at the restaurant, the volunteer kitchen staff: a chef, assistants and people who wash dishes and clean around, are practically operating 24 hours a day. As it’s a vegan restaurant, the meals consist of carbohydrates and protein. The packers pour food into bowls, cover them, and those responsible for boxing organize the meals according to their destinations. When the volunteer drivers arrive, they make sure careful to load the right boxes. Today for instance, we sent food to both the far north and the far south.
During the five hours that I spent today at the restaurant , around 10 volunteer drivers using their own cars, came to pick up the meals. Several of them wore “Brothers In Arms” T-shirts, a group of dedicated protesters who are providing essential services that our state has either neglected or abandoned altogether. By chance, three drivers heading to different destinations arrived at the same time wearing their T-shirts. When I complimented them on their work and T-shirts, one of them mentioned that people all over the country are delighted and relieved to see them and their shirts.
Working in the restaurant is the only time during the day when I feel almost like myself. I can focus on the task at hand and escape the worrisome news on the radio, all while being surrounded by friendly people. Being active and useful is undoubtedly beneficial for people in mourning.