Published in Maariv news paper in Israel.
Underneath the Rothschild Mall in Rishon Letzion, next to the brand name stores
there is another mall, a hidden one. Every Thursday night over one thousand
people come here to take food,
which has been donated.
Ronen Zinger, one of the heads of this project
planned to study psychology,
but an accidental meeting in a Chabad House set him on a completely
different path. Today he initiates,
runs around, and enlists donors and volunteers Boaz Gaon spent 24 hours with
the warrior on the abandoned
by the State of Israel poverty front.
A Charitable Hour
Ronen Zinger woke up first. Among the haze of the short night dreams, two heavy
bags of food fell on top of him: one with rice, the other with bread. Afterwards
came the memory of the eggs, bought the day before at a rock-bottom price at the
wholesale market. When Zinger recalled the chickens he had bought the day
before, crates upon crates of frozen chickens, that would thaw till the evening
to be then distributed on the streets of Rishon Letzion by night, he forced
himself to wake up and sit up in bed. After all, the smell of the chickens (or
the memory of that smell) might fill the bedroom and awaken the other members of
the young family, his wife Yifat and the 1½-year-old daughter Sara Tova.
Zinger got up, ritually cleansed his hands, and washed his face. He raced
through the morning prayers, greeted the large picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
hanging in the corner of the kitchen, got dressed, and walked out. On the
stairs, he inhaled deeply, rubbed his red eyes, and turned on the cell phone.
The worn-out cell phone, covered in white plastic, sounded three rhythmic taps
of the gong: bing, bing, bing.
During Zinger's four-hour-long night, eight messages crowded his voicemail.
Three came from volunteers, who wanted to update him on yesterday's food
donations. They would bring the food to the appointed place near the prestigious
Rothschild Mall in the city center towards midday. Two Thai workers, provided by
contractor Yaakov Cohen (K. A. and Sons Company), would carry the food from the
mall entrance to the Lovingkindness Mall warehouses, situated at the end of the
arcade. These are part of the Lev Hachesed (The Heart of Lovingkindness)
project, which Zinger runs in Rishon Letzion. The Lovingkindness Mall is
adjacent to the Rothschild Mall. The haves exit the Jabotinsky Street and turn
right to the Rothschild Mall. The have-nots continue a few more feet down the
street and turn right to the Lovingkindness Mall. Nine feet of concrete tiles,
covered with bubble-gum and flyers advertising "the unbeatable deals" at a
second-floor luxury underwear store, separate between the two malls and the
different classes each week.
Every week Lev Hachesed distributes 1,000-1,500 food packages to people who are
neglected or at best, labeled as welfare addicts by the country. When Zinger
joined Lev Hachesed two years ago, only about 100 packages were distributed on
Rothschild Street. Zinger's elevator arrived and he walked in with the cell
phone glued to his ear. He listened to three messages from families, who called
to remind him to deliver the packages to their homes. They were unable,
physically and emotionally, to come with their children to the dangerous line,
with its crushing of ribs and fainting spells (more on that later), which spills
out onto Rothschild Street from 7:00 PM every Thursday.
The last, least important message was from the Weekend reporter. Your humble
servant called to remind Zinger that we had set to meet at 10 AM to kick off a
series of articles under the heading 24 Hours. Each time we would join one
person, to steadfastly light the less illuminated corners of the Israeli
existence. Why steadfastly? Because over the past few years, the Israeli media
seemed to have sold its soul to one word, the headline. Everything besides the
headline is left on the editor's table, next to the empty pizza boxes. Joining
someone for 24 hours should create a different type of coverage. Let's call it
"panoramic coverage." Zinger finished listening to the messages, got into his
Mitsubishi, and headed for Rothschild Street. He looked into the rearview mirror
and tried to recall how he had looked the last time he met the Weekend
That was ten years ago. Zinger was secular intelligence officer, wanting to
become a psychologist. For hours, he would sit in my office and discuss his
potential future. Who could imagine then, that three years after his discharge,
while randomly shopping at the Rishon Letzion Chabad House for a mezuzah for a
housewarming party, Zinger would meet Rabbi Yitzhak Gruzman, and under his
guidance immerse himself into the depths of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's charity
Thursday night at the Lovingkindness Mall. "Every week we go through this
humiliation. I wish Netanyahu would stand in this line for just one evening to
feed his kids." Photo: Yonatan Shaul
Someone honked from the opposite side. Across from the entrance to the
Lovingkindness Mall, between two gleaming SUVs, stood crates with vegetables:
cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and eggplants. Zinger breathed with ease.
From top to bottom: Moti Aroesti, Yoram Harpaz, Zinger and B., the line for
food, Zinger with Aharon (right) and Yehezkel Sopher, volunteers in action.
Vegetables instead of a Pub
His gait changed too. A former swimmer, relay runner, and master in
Kyokushinkai, a martial art aimed at breaking the opponent's head before he has
a chance to say "Good morning" in Japanese, Zinger used to dash through the army
base, where we had served together. Today his walk resembles that of a bear.
It was 10:30 AM, and Zinger led us through the back entrance to the
refrigeration storage of Lev Hachesed. When only a few dozen families received
their food packages here, the needy used to slip through this door unnoticed. As
the list grew, the line drew out to the front of the mall, facing Rothschild
Street. At some point, the shame vanished as well. Zeev Langzam, a former
security officer and now one of Zinger's associates came in from the end of the
hallway, escorting a potential donor inside. Flushed, he wore a white shirt, a
gold chain, and a bracelet. The confused businessman stood nearby. "Come here,"
said Langzam to Zinger. "Meet Rami, from Rami Computers."
Zinger shook Rami's hand and looked deeply into his eyes, penetrating to the
very heart. "I hope you'll be able to help us," he said and went to supervise
the Thai workers. Langzam looked at me and sensed an opportunity for an
emotional appeal to the People of Israel. "Go inside," he urged Rami. "I'll be
with you in a moment."
Langzam set down near a sticky white plastic table covered by a sticky blue
plastic tablecloth, lit an LM cigarette, dangled the golden bracelet on his left
arm, and asked what would I like to know.
The security officer and charity worker Zeev Langzam was born in Poland and came
to Israel at the age of five. He grew up in Rishon, studied in Rishon, fell in
love in Rishon, got married in Rishon, and had children here. "I used to walk on
the streets and stop every second to say hello to friends," said he. "Today I
walk on the streets and don't recognize anyone." And there is another
difference. "Today you walk on the streets and see people looking in garbage
containers for food. This never used to happen. I myself took three people out
of the garbage and brought them here."
Langzam enjoys the good life. He likes to eat, to drink, and to entertain
himself. Until a few years ago, he owned a pub. Today he owns an insurance
agency. He also holds the privileged and impressive post of the Head of the
Inspection Committee of the Israeli Association of Insurance Brokers.
Langzam and his wife Itta used to go out every Thursday night. Two years ago, on
their way to have a few drinks, they noticed a crowded line at the entrance to
the mall. Langzam hurried towards the line. He noticed two childhood friends,
whom he had not seen for years, shook hands, and asked, "What's the line for?"
"Food," said his friend and lowered his eyes, "They're giving out food."
Probably out of embarrassment, Langzam stayed to watch the weekly ritual, as
some 900 or so people squeezed into the entrance to the Lovingkindness Mall.
After the distribution, at 2 AM he walked inside, asked who was in charge, and
met Ronen Zinger and Kobi Dushitz (a 25-year-old Lubavitcher hassid). He told
them that he was giving up his weekly outings in favor of volunteering. He and
his wife Itta, of course.
It was midday. Zinger approached from afar, after instructing the Thai workers
and talking on the phone to the coaches of the Rishon Letzion youth soccer and
basketball teams. They agreed to send the teams over to help with the
pre-holiday distribution. Actually, not agreed but surrendered. Zinger knows how
to nag. If he wants something from you, he calls and leaves a message, then
calls again and leaves another message. The third time around he asks if you
have gotten the first two messages. After the eighth message, you find yourself
on your way to Rothschild Street with a trunk full of vegetables. Before leaving
them temporarily, I asked Langzam about his emotional response to the weekly
events there. "I am angry," he said and reddened, "because we are working here
instead of the government. We are doing the Knesset members' jobs and they just
talk and don't do anything."
The Appropo coffee shop borders the local Workers' Council branch. The deserted
building is reminiscent of a-once-magnificent house occupied by an old lady,
whose spirit still haunts its rooms. If I were a local kid, I would have been
scared to go near it after dark without a grown-up, armed with an air gun. The
"l" fell off and has not been replaced, so the sign reads "Workers' Counci"
It was 3 PM, a transitional hour after the arrival of the food and before the
arrival of the volunteers. Zinger, who foresaw a long night ahead of him,
offered to go have a bite. We sat for an hour, during which he told me about his
life over the course of the past ten years. From a pampered Rishon Letzion boy
(his father, Dani Zinger, is a well-known local paper and press tycoon), he
turned into a Lubavitcher hassid, devoted to feeding people, whom the government
is unable or unwilling to feed. Private Zinger served in an intelligence unit
for a year and a half. Afterwards, the Head of the Personnel Division, with
personal approval from Brigadier General Zeev Farkash (then the commander of our
unit and today the Head of the Intelligence Division) transferred Zinger to
serve as the division martial arts instructor. After teaching on various
intelligence bases for another year and braking three ribs during practice, he
was discharged and applied to study psychology. He searched for something,
without knowing what it was. He quit after just one semester.
To the Rishon Letzion Chabad House he came by chance, to buy mezuzot for the
family's new house. Rabbi Gruzman, the local Chabad representative, asked him
whether he knew, what a mezuzah was. Zinger said no, but expressed an interest
to learn. Gruzman "saw that this is good material that could be hooked" and
began to teach Zinger about the essence of Hasidism and the mission of a Chabad
And Zinger got hooked. During a heavy meal of chicken, potatoes, and red rice at
3 AM he told me, that what hooked him was probably the idea that the soul
requires cultivation, perfection, and strengthening, just like a muscle. If I
understood him correctly, the athlete in Zinger fell in love with moral
athletics. He compared his soul to a piece of leather, which should be processed
by repeatedly rubbing it against the dull knife of reality, until it becomes
smooth, perfect, and nonabrasive. "The common ambition," he says, "is to mend
yourself and the world, since every person is a microcosm."
The cell phone rang and Zinger hurried to answer. "Who is it? Ah, give him the
phone. Kfir? What's up? It's Ronen. I understand that you don't have the
chickens? What can you give us? Do you have gizzards? What do you have that
doesn't need to be koshered? Could you give me the drumsticks that we've spoken
about? It would really help me, Kfir. Try to give me as many drumsticks as you
can, and if not than mix in some gizzards. OK? Thank you so much, brother.
Squares in the stomach
A 30-feet-long passage leads from Rothschild Street to the Lovingkindness Mall
warehouses, bordered by two other stores. One is part of the Delta - Everything
for the soldier chain and belongs to Yoram Harpaz. It sells underwear,
undershirts, and socks. Facing it is Julio shoe store, owned by the Sopher
Brothers. Harpaz and Sopher cast sharp glances at Zinger, every time he passed
At 4 PM Harpaz, a pleasant, philosophical fellow in square glasses, stood behind
the cash register, his left shoulder brushing against the bare stomach of the
underwear model reproduced in numerous copies on the black cardboard packages on
the shelf. Judging by the underwear packaging, the epitome of male beauty in
2003 consisted of squares on one's stomach, clenched buttocks, and a wandering
look in the eyes directed overseas.
Harpaz said that he understood that there were hungry people in Rishon. He also
thought that they should be helped. But why here? What's his fault? Why did he
have to sell fewer underwear on Thursdays? "Listen," he said, straightening his
glasses and throwing another look at Zinger, who ran like an electrode from the
minus side of the Lovingkindness Mall to the plus side of the Rothschild Mall.
"Obviously, the help should be given. As far as I know, Rabbi Gruzman, Ronen
Zinger, and Kobi Dushitz are people of actions and kindness. But the location is
a thorny issue. This is a question of humiliating the needy people that stand in
line in a public place. Everybody walks by and asks, 'What's this line for?' On
Thursdays, I know I can forget about making money. It's awful."
"Excuse me," said an unexpected customer. "Could I please have two undershirts,
size 36?" "Sure," said Harpaz and turned to his assistant. "Marina, could you
please help her?"
Harpaz supports the Likud. Just like for everyone, financially, the past year
was lousy. I asked whether his financial situation and the line winding next to
his store, merchandise, and customers every Thursday, were influencing his
political views. He turned around, bent over, moved a few packages of boxer
shorts, and took out a photo of him with Amir Peretz.
"He spoke to me and told me a few things, that I have been thinking about."
"And if Peretz were to join the Labor?" I asked.
"I will not vote for Labor. Nor for Likud for that matter. I'll find an
Aharon and Yehezkel Sopher's Julio shoe store is located opposite the underwear
empire of Harpaz. When I walked in, Aharon sat next to the wall with his hands
on his knees. He looked sad and nervous, but ready for battle. It seemed that he
was counting down the hours to the Day of Judgment. His brother Yehezkel leaned
on a table not far from the cash register and clenched his fists. I asked what
they thought of Zinger and his food distribution project.
"What bothers me," said Aharon quietly, and then gradually raising the volume,
"besides the flies, and the disorder, and the noise, is that sometimes they
bring rotten merchandise, bring fish in the summer. A whole swarm of flies goes
right into the store. We are going crazy! But the biggest problem is the sight
of these things. That every Thursday I have to go through this again."
There used to be dozens of needy. Now, hundreds of them come every week.
After completing his army service, Zinger applied to college. He searched for
something, without knowing what it was. He came to the Chabad House by accident
and got hooked. "The common ambition," he says, "is to mend yourself and the
world, since every person is a microcosm."
Moti Aroesti owns a wedding hall in the city. Each Friday, Aroesti sends thirty
servings to a nearby school for needy children. Zinger heard about this, got
Aroesti's phone number, and made his life hell. Aroesti, could not take it any
longer, came to 43 Rothschild to see what went on there, and became a supporter.
Just as I asked what he meant, Zinger flew in. He looked anxious and explained
that the barriers had not been placed, the police had not yet arrived, and the
people were starting to gather at the entrance. Aharon looked at him and
continued, "These people, that pretend to be noble, that are supposed to help
the community and to support those in need, take advantage of the misery of
these wretched people. They embarrass the poor to aggrandize themselves!"
"Gentlemen, it's humiliating and it's not fair! The solution is to take them
to a different place, to the industrial park, for example. Listen, I am
willing to take all the food and to give it out at the City Hall Square out
of my own pocket next week. Bring the national TV and it'll find you a
solution by tomorrow. Are you willing? I am asking you, are you willing to
do that?" Ronen was silent. He excused himself and walked out. It was 6:00
PM. In two hours, 1,500 hungry people would come here, with or without the
A call from Aroesti
Instead of running away, Zinger set down next to Aharon and folded his arms. "In
Judaism charity should be given quietly!" Sopher hurled at Zinger pointing a
sharp finger. "Not to talk about it and not to show it! Otherwise, you embarrass
the people that come here. I am not saying that you should put them in the
basement. I am not saying that you should cover them with tarp, but you are
humiliating the man that comes for a piece of bread, you trample him!"
"So what's the alternative?" asked Zinger.
"What?" asked Aharon.
"When we opened this place," continued Zinger, "we helped a few dozen people.
Now the city Welfare Department sends us 900 people each week. We've turned to
the Mayor a dozen times already. Meanwhile the people are hungry." "I don't care
about the Mayor," said Aharon. "Just like the people can come here, they can go
to the Ehad Haam area." "They won't be able to get there," said Ronen.
It's 7:30 PM. Moti Aroesti, dressed in a purple polo shirt and matching
glasses, stood with his back to the wall, in a 2-feet-long, nonsterile
enclave, separating him from the pushing, angry, hungry crowd. In half an
hour, the doors would open to let out measured servings of food. With his
muscular arms folded Langzam stood nearby and made sure no one passed.
Aroesti is a well-known Rishon Letzion personality. His composed, serene
appearances are as fitting in the Lev Hachesed line, as a Labor Knesset
Member's presence at a Likud candidate's support rally. A former basketball
player, he now owns the Muscat wedding hall in the city. Each Friday,
Aroesti sends thirty servings to a nearby school for needy children. Zinger
heard about this, got Aroesti's phone number, and made his life hell.
Aroesti, with his steel patience (he had being compared with Miki Berkowitz,
another Israeli basketball star, his whole life) could not take it any
longer and one evening came to 43 Rothschild to see what went on there. The
sight broke his smug, I've-won-against-the-TsSKA (a Russian basketball team)
expression and made him a supporter. Aroesti gave Zinger his most valued
possession, his name. "I act behind the scenes," he told me. "Ronen tells
me, 'Call here, call there.' It's different when he calls and when I call."
Aroesti is not the only one, whom Zinger pestered and dragged screaming and
kicking to see how people stand in line for food in Israel 2003. The list of
Lev Hachesed volunteers, who do the government's job every week, is long.
Zeev Perelshtein, an Assistant for Business Development to the Rishon
Letzion Mayor volunteers with his wife Kokhi. During the night that we spent
there, he carried heavy bags of chickens from the warehouse to the
distribution area. Rafi and Shalom, both of them retired, canvass the
country with a pick up truck and collect food donations. I met Shalom at
night, as he leaned on the truck and smoked a cigarette. "There's no work
anyway," he said. "At least we are doing something good for the people."
Shimshon Zelig, the Chairman of the Contractors' Association, visited 43
Rothschild following Zinger's invitation, remembered his hungry childhood in
Siberia, and swore to help. Shlomo Kaplan, a contractor. Moti Rosenblum, the
owner of the Ahidov Telecommunications Company. Moshe Lebherr, an owner of
an insurance agency. Dani Yifrach, a contractor, donates the use of a truck
and a crane. Shlomo Greenberg, the chairman of the Aircraft Industries
Union, donates money in the name of his co-workers, as does Yigal Edri from
PC Next. Yoram Rahav, from the Rahav Company, donates a car. The Rav-Magen
Company also donates a car. Zinger knows Eyal Yosef, who works at Rav-Magen.
He is a childhood friend, whom Zinger pestered continuously. Aroesti
examined the line. He wrinkled his forehead, bit his lips, and tried to make
order of the colorful Israeli mix in front of him. Hunger united veteran
Israelis, Russians, Ethiopians, grown-ups, women, men, former business
owners, working people, unemployed sent by the welfare department, shocked
children, screaming babies, 90-year old elders, and high school students
sent by their mother, no longer able to push in line.
It looked like a checkpoint at the border. Not a physical border but a
conceptual border, the border of trust, which most of us have towards the
society, which is supposed to take care of us. Here there is no trust in
anyone. The people rely only on themselves. Not on the country, not on
Zinger, not even on Aroesti.
Suddenly, Aroesti leaped ahead and grabbed one of the iron barriers, as it
was about to fall noisily on a cop. He returned to the wall, a bit frayed,
but still Moti Aroesti. The polo player on horseback in the corner of his
shirt remained erect. I asked him what these events meant for the man, who
was and remained the symbol of the other Israel, the one that heads into
smashing offensives, assured of support from the rear. "What does it mean?
It means that the country is bankrupt."
The fighting time
The fighting broke out at around 8:30 PM. The head of the snaking line was stuck
between the open doors of the Lovingkindness Mall, while its tail had reached
the entrance to the Rothschild Mall. Inside the mall, teenage girls strolled
between the shelves of a clothing store, trying on shirts that would emphasize
It was not clear who had started the fight, but a few minutes earlier, the cops
escorted a fragile-looking woman, equipped with an empty grocery cart out of the
line and towards the entrance. Someone probably suspected favoritism, said
something, or pushed someone. What started as an accidental elbow in the ribs,
caused by the terrible crowdedness, ended in a well-aimed blow. The cops jumped
inside and separated the two women, who continued to scream. Their screaming
echoed amplified by the claustrophobic acoustics of the narrow passage.
At that moment, several youngsters surrounded an election campaign stall
opposite the Rothschild Mall entrance. In another month or so, the residents
would cast their ballots in the municipal elections. The three leading
candidates are Meir Nitzan, the current mayor; David Biton from the local Likud
branch; and Dov Tzor, the Shinui candidate. The hotly debated issue is the tax
cut. Tzor tries to depict Nitzan as a socialist revolutionary, who hurts the
middle class. "The Interior Minister approved Dov Tzor's plan for tax
reductions!" screamed the headline of the newspaper, independently printed by
Tzor, and distributed to the passersby on the street. Tzor's activists were the
next generation of the bourgeoisie: well-dressed, decked in stylish sunglasses,
and light-skinned. "Do you know," activist Liron Tzimberg was repeating the
script, "that every year Meir Nitzan takes 400 new employees for the
municipality? Do you know that he has nine secretaries?"
From top to bottom: Zinger with Yehuda Barkan, Yisrael Edri (right) with Rabbi
Yitzhak Gruzman, Zinger and his wife Yafit, Zinger and Zeev Langzam.
I asked the activists what they thought about the huge line, which grew like a
tumor of poverty in the main Rishon Letzion artery of opulence. A blue-eyed,
curly activist, who asked to remain anonymous, shrugged his shoulders and said,
"There are those who go to work on construction sites or I don't know where, to
make money, and then there are those that don't have [the money] and don't want
to work. I don't want them to be paid out of our taxes. Besides, most of the
people standing here for food are Russians. Why should the Russians get
everything and not us? Why do they deserve more than us? We have to pay taxes
for them? And even if they do pay taxes, it's from the money that they get from
us. I don't think they deserve it."
I went back to look for Zinger. Yehezkel Sopher caught me midway. He closed the
store and looked especially annoyed. "Now you understand?" he asked with
restrained rage and pointed at the line. "Now you understand what we were
talking about?" At this point, it is difficult to estimate the Likud's political
and economic influence on its popularity among the hungry voters in the next
Knesset election. One thing is certain; the Israeli secret service would do well
to add Rothschild Street on Thursday nights to the list of places, which the
Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should not to visit under any circumstances.
I am exaggerating, but were he to attend an Islamic Jihad rally wearing a Likud
t-shirt, his chances of coming out alive were greater than here.
Viki Behar came to Rothschild Street from Jaffa with her 6-year-old daughter
Lior. She told us that her husband used to manage the Rishon IBM warehouse until
a year ago. She worked as a security guard in educational institutions. Both of
them were laid off over the past year. Behar was laid off after becoming
pregnant. Since then, they have been unable to find work. They heard about the
Lovingkindness Mall on TV. She came alone, because her husband was too
embarrassed. Shoshana Ozeri is a grandmother. She was sent to 43 Rothschild by
the Rishon Letzion Welfare Department, which is unable to handle the
blown-out-of-proportion hunger situation. "Of course, it's difficult," says
Ozeri. "What do you think? But I also need to eat, right? What am I, a sheep?"
Eugenia has three children. She emigrated from Byelorussia twelve years ago. Her
husband left her with three children, and she has been unable to work, since
there is no one to watch after them. The Finance Ministry's last fiscal cuts
bash showed her the way to the Welfare Department. There she was told that they
had no money and advised to turn to the Lovingkindness Mall. She came here that
day to be able to celebrate the New Year in dignity.
Raviv Yitzhak fainted, while standing in line. The combination of heat,
crowdedness, and age did it. At 58, he used to work as a security guard in Kfar
Chabad, until he was laid off. He claimed to have been looking for work, but
unable to find any because of his age and a wound from the Six Day War
Ammunition Hill battle. He came to the mall with his son, who "doesn't want to
work." 9:00 PM. The Civil Police cops, whose olive uniforms made them look like
Boarder Guard policemen, extracted a crying boy with a black eye from the line.
Not far from him stood an angry young woman with a nose piercing, who asked me
to come over and listen to what she had to say about the government, the Likud,
and Netanyahu. A medical secretary left by her husband, she resigned her job to
be able to bring up her four children, and had no other choice but to live off
the Social Security allowance. She has sent a myriad of resumes, but got no
answers. The employers see that she is a mother of four and keep looking
further. There is no lack of applicants.
She started to cry. "Every week we go through this humiliation. Every week there
are hundreds of people here. This government is evil. I wish Netanyahu would
stand in this line for just one evening to feed his kids. These satiated people
don't lack anything and don't know what a humiliation it is to be here. I stand
here with tears in my eyes. The people in the government are evil. The Minister
of Finance is surrounded by 30-year-olds straight out of college. May be they
understand something about numbers, but they don't understand a thing about
people. They are complete zeroes!"
Rothschild Street was crowded. People passed the food line holding ice creams
A midnight idea
At 11:00 PM Zinger got a phone call from B. Until then, he dashed between bags
of food, asked people not to push, calmed a sobbing old woman, screamed into the
cell phone, and happily greeted his wife Yifat, who had come to help. B., a
resident of Rishon Letzion and a mother of two, had been left by her husband
because of her ethnicity. Her Ashkenazi in-laws opposed their son's marriage to
an Oriental woman and sabotaged the relationship. After several years of
marriage, he abandoned the family. She refused to divorce him, afraid that he
might run off without paying alimony, and she would never see him again. On her
request, Rabbi Gruzman recently called the husband and asked to help his
children, if not his wife. The SOB (if you excuse me) refused. B. excused
herself, said that she was unable to leave the children alone, and asked whether
Zinger could send the food parcel to her house with one of the volunteers.
Zinger said he was on his way. After all, the line had shortened. It now reached
only to the middle of the passage, approximately to the Kosomi store selling "a
variety of mystery-related products and furniture from the Far East" with
"special discounts for employees' committees." Zinger walked between the
volunteers hugging, kissing, and thanking them. His eyes were the color of
cooked beetroots and his previously white shirt became beige. Yifat was sent to
the parking lot to bring the Mitsubishi. She drove, he rested, and I looked out
of the window. Together we passed the sign listing the twin cities of Rishon
Letzion: Muenster, Germany; Nimes, France; Prince George's County, USA; Lublin,
Poland; Heerenveen, Holland; Tianjin, China; Brasov, Romania; Debrecen, Hungary;
Essex County, USA.
Yoram Harpaz, "Obviously, the help should be given. As far as I know, Rabbi
Gruzman, Ronen Zinger, and Kobi Dushitz are people of actions and kindness. But
the location is a thorny issue. This is a question of humiliating the needy
people that stand in line in a public place. Everybody walks by and asks,
'What's this line for?' On Thursdays, I know I can forget about making money.
Someone probably suspected favoritism, said something, or pushed someone. What
started as an accidental elbow in the ribs, caused by the terrible crowdedness,
ended in a well-aimed blow. The cops jumped inside and separated the two women,
who continued to scream. Their screaming echoed amplified by the claustrophobic
acoustics of the narrow passage.
After a 12-minute ride we came to an opulent-looking apartment building, its
parking lot crowded with washed sedans and a spacious Mitsubishi SUV. The
Zingers, Rabbi Gruzman, and I walked up to the second floor and dragged in the
grocery bags. B. was a gorgeous woman with two gorgeous children. The first
resembled the father and the second the mother. I looked at the well-furnished
living room. She noticed and pointed out the objects in the room. The picture
she got from the neighbors. The closet was found in the garbage. The TV lacked
an antenna, and the computer was received as part of the Computer for Every
Child project. The couch was bought on 14 months credit after one of her
children was humiliated by his friends, who could not believe that there was no
place to sit in the house.
She began to cry. At 11:45 PM she said that she did not know what would happen,
but "God willing" everything would be all right. I looked to my right at Zinger,
his chin dropping. He leaned towards me and said, "I've got an idea." We arrived
at the Zinger's at 3 AM, after another stop at the Lovingkindness Mall, where
the distribution continued till 2 AM. The Lubavitcher Rebbe waited for us in the
living room. His pictures were scattered in the living room, in the kitchen, in
the dining room, and in the closed-off porch, which serves as an office. All in
all, eight Rebbes. After dinner, Yifat and Sara-Tova went to sleep. Zinger
stretched out on the couch and began to talk about Judaism, faith, commandments,
the approaching Messiah, who Zinger was convinced would come in the near or
distant future, at some point. "There are too many signs," he said, "that
Messiah is on his way. It can't be that everyone was mistaken." The next day
Zinger woke up first. He ritually cleansed his hands, washed his face, raced
through the morning prayers, and sat down near the phone. On a third try, he
reached the vacationing contractor Yitzik Amsalem. He reminded Amsalem of his
old promise to adopt a family and then told him about B. Ronen listened, said
"Yes," a few times, hung up, and placed the cell phone on the wooden table.
"So," I asked.
"He's willing," said Zinger. "He'll adopt them. Everything's OK."