The Shifting Landscape of Food Security in Israel

Mia Hubbard
October 19, 2023

As we near the end of the second week of Israel’s war with Hamas, it is clear that emergency relief and longer-term recovery work for those impacted will last for a long time, and the context for our work ahead is changing. Amid horror and heartbreak, we remain deeply concerned about food insecurity in Israel and the region. We are incredibly proud of our many longtime partners who are pushing through their own grief, pain, and fear to provide life-saving support to those facing hunger. Here are some key points we’ve learned, and what we’re considering as the landscape of food security in Israel continues to shift:

  • The Israeli nonprofit sector is rising to meet the growing needs in this time of crisis. Indeed, the robust and rapid mobilization of civil society across all areas of need, including food insecurity, has been incredible. Some of MAZON’s partners — Leket, Latet, and Pitchon Lev — are distributing food and other necessities to families still in the south in cities surrounding Gaza, as well as to those who have evacuated to other locations.
  • Government officials and ministries are starting to turn their attention to the food insecurity needs of the population. Earlier this week, MAZON’s Israel Director Ishai Menuchin and our partners met with the National Food Security Council and officials from the ministries of Welfare, Economy and Industry, Treasury, and Agriculture to discuss how the government plans to support nonprofit organizations distributing emergency food and address ongoing and emerging hunger needs in the country.
  • The current food card distribution program is also impacted by the war. Before the war, MAZON and our partners were closely monitoring the distribution of 400 million shekels in food cards by the Interior Ministry and advocating for more equitable criteria for determining eligibility for this assistance. Those food cards were produced at Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza Strip, which was attacked by Hamas terrorists last weekend and 10% of their residents were murdered. But Kibbutz Be’eri’s highly successful printing company plans to start printing again soon, as the government still has 300 million shekels of food cards left to distribute.
  • Israel is facing higher food prices and food supply disruptions. Like the U.S., Israel has been battling inflation for months, and we saw the issue of Israel’s high cost of living become a major election campaign concern. But now the war has disrupted farming and dairy production in the western Negev, which is considered the breadbasket of Israel. Volunteers are literally being organized to milk and care for the cows in order to keep Israel’s world-renowned dairy farms going. All four of Israel’s main dairies increased prices this week after state-controlled milk and other dairy costs increased more than 8%. MAZON’s staff in Israel report that food on the grocery shelves has been more bare than usual. During this week’s meeting with the National Food Security Council, MAZON and our partners urged Israeli government officials to freeze food prices in the face of these food supply challenges.
  • MAZON also has expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Although MAZON’s work in Israel is focused inside the Green Line, we recognize there is a humanitarian crisis facing more than two million Palestinians trapped inside Gaza, many of whom lived in extreme poverty even before this war. This week, MAZON sent a letter to President Biden, thanking him for his leadership and support of Israel, and urging him to make food security a top priority in his diplomacy. On Wednesday, Israel agreed to allow humanitarian assistance to begin flowing into Gaza from Egypt.

MAZON’s partners are feeling — and will continue to feel — the effects of this war. This week, MAZON announced new emergency grants totaling $100,000 for four organizations serving the needs of two particularly vulnerable and overlooked populations: Bedouins and asylum seekers. Four of our longtime grantee partners received $25,000 each: Itach Ma’aki, Negev Coexistence Forum, Sidreh, and the Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel (ASSAF). As a Jewish organization, we remain rooted in the belief that all people are created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God. This means that every person — regardless of ethnicity, background, religion, or circumstance — deserves to reach the fullness of their potential. As MAZON has done for nearly four decades in the U.S. and Israel, we will continue working to end hunger and ensure that all people can feed themselves with the dignity, freedom, and safety they deserve. Learn more about MAZON’s work in Israel here.