On a busy main street in the center of the holy city of Tiberias, just across from the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Galilee, lies the Meir Panim Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen.
Each day, approximately 150 of the city’s impoverished citizens arrive to receive a hot, fresh meal, a warm smile, and friendly social interaction. For many of these struggling Israelis, this is their only meal of the day.
The venue was dedicated by Mrs. Lee Steinberg over 15 years ago in memory of her parents Eva and Morris Fish, and her late husband Harold, who loved the city of Tiberias. “Meir Panim’s Tiberias branch has been an important lifeline for many people in Tiberias for a long time,” said David Roth, President of American Friends of Meir Panim. “In fact, we just made many upgrades to the restaurant, including a new air conditioner, to give more comfort to our patrons, many of whom are elderly.”
Meir Panim maintains five restaurant-style soup kitchens throughout Israel. Known for providing food to all who come to its premises – no questions asked – everyone is served with a smile. Many diners are known personally to the staff, adding another layer of dignity to a situation that is otherwise sometimes uncomfortable for people.
The Tiberias Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen is sunny and welcoming. Given its prime location in the bustling and beautiful city, staff provide patrons with hope by always giving a personal touch and an atmosphere of respect. By getting to know each person personally, the needy patrons feel cared for despite their life circumstances.
“Everyone who needs a meal has a story,” Branch Manager Varda Shoan explained. “We don’t pry, but we do care.”
Shoan shared the story of Miriam. Miriam was a special needs teacher for decades, who recently was forced out of work due to debilitating back pain. Her son was recently discharged from the army and has been unsuccessfully looking for work. Her small family is struggling and finding the Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen just blocks away from their home has prevented them from going to bed hungry.
As Meir Panim patrons range from Holocaust survivors to younger people hit by hard times, maintaining the Tiberias Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen brings solace to so many people. “Without Meir Panim, I don’t know what we would do. We are so grateful,” said Miriam.
“We do our best to stretch the produce and food items donated to Meir Panim to make delicious and creative meals,” said Shoan. “Part of our inspiration comes from being in close proximity to the grave of the great Rabbi Maimonides [Rambam], who taught that the highest form of charity is helping people in a dignified manner.”
Meir Panim is certainly fulfilling that concept.