Restaurants across the country are offering free meals to soldiers in uniform, which will warm the hearts of Jewish mothers.
“We felt we had to do something and this is what we wanted to do,” said Avi Sinclair, co-owner of La Piedra, which has two branches in Jerusalem and just opened a food truck in Har Hotzvim. It was the least we could do,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “Our country is at war. We wanted to get back to our job of providing food.”
At La Piedra, anyone in uniform can eat free pizza, including police officers, MDA and United Hatzalah volunteers. They’re getting more than just pizza. La Piedra is the first and only Israeli pizzeria to be ranked in the Top 50 Pizza Guide, an Italian ranking listing the best pizzas around the world.
Mr Sinclair said he did not know how many meals he had donated, but estimated it was around 1,000 at NIS 50 each.
“We will continue to cover costs as much as possible,” he said.
There were also restaurants that provided meals to soldiers even before the war.
Some restaurants have been feeding soldiers since before the war, and have only stepped up their efforts since then. At Muffin Boutique, any uniformed soldier can get a free muffin and coffee, or sandwich and coffee once a month.
Co-owner Shumaria Richler said the owners have distributed about 5,500 meals since opening the first branch on Ben Yehuda Street. That was in 2014, when Israel became embroiled in Operation Protective Edge, a new war against Hamas in Gaza. Now in 2023, just a few weeks before the war began, they have opened a branch on Daniel Yanovsky Street in northern Talpiot.
“I’m never going to open a third branch,” Richler joked to the Post. “That’s too dangerous.”
Richler said soldiers are always grateful for free food.
“They say it feels like a million dollars,” he said. “I even had a man call me to feed his English son. He said he chose us because we used to give him free meals.”
Piccolino in downtown Jerusalem has long offered lone soldiers free admission to its famous Friday buffet. When the war began, the owners closed the restaurant, like many others, and sold everything from thermal underwear to powdered milk for the more than 200,000 Israeli families who had been evacuated from their homes. I turned it into a gathering place for everything. Orit Dahan said the restaurant’s American donors were looking for ways to donate to the war effort, and Piccolino was happy to help connect them. She estimated that they had distributed well over NIS 1 million in goods since the war began.
“I have always had a special feeling for lone soldiers,” Dahan, who owns Piccolino with his sister Anat Yazdi, told the Post. “These soldiers don’t have their mothers waiting for them with a pot simmering on the stove, so we encourage them to come to the restaurant on Fridays.”
After the war, she brought large amounts of food to the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center and to the shiva of at least 10 soldiers killed in Gaza.
Aroma Chain has also spent significant time and money supporting soldiers. At Aloma Beit Qama, one of the transit points for soldiers entering and exiting Gaza, soldiers eat for free. Every day, volunteers at Aroma Beit Shemesh make hundreds of sandwiches and deliver them to soldiers across the country.
Some restaurants have become kosher so they can feed soldiers, including those who keep kosher. As reported by the Post, a restaurant called Noor in the Druze village of Julis in northern Israel has become kosher in order to serve meals to soldiers.
Dozens of private initiatives related to baked goods and sweets
Regarding food issues, there are many private initiatives. One is Hamar Hamatok (Sweet War Room), which delivers handmade goods to soldiers across Israel. The Jerusalem branch is called the Bread Battalion and is run by Hedi Rashba. There are several children currently fighting in the war.
She organizes bakeries across Jerusalem to bring shallots and cakes, along with handwritten notes and drawings, to a central collection point in Jerusalem. From there they go to Ramat Gan, where they are distributed to troops across the country. Bakers often leave their phone number, but sometimes the recipient calls or sends a video.
In one lovely video shared by Rashba, a girl made a model tank made from a toilet paper roll painted green and sent it to a tank battalion in Gaza.
“Avigail, thank you so much for the gift. It really resembles our tank,” one of the reservists said in the video. “But yours is even better than the real thing.”
Rashba is partnering with Nadia Levine, who founded Bubby’s Baking, but Levine assured the newspaper that you don’t have to be a grandmother or a woman to participate.
“BubbiesRBaking provides anyone who can bake in their own kitchen the opportunity to perform a mitzvah by feeding the troops,” Levine said. “We found that older generations in particular feel a deep connection to this war effort, and baking bread often gets them through these difficult weeks.”
It will be taken to the same location where supplies from Beik Battalion are sent, where it will be packaged and delivered to about 4,000 soldiers across Israel and in Gaza.
Levine said her friend’s son-in-law took an impromptu 10-hour vacation from Gaza and asked for 1,200 cookies.
“I said, don’t worry! You’re talking to the right person!” Levin said. “Then I gave a hakpatza (emergency call) to my baking buddy, and he came back to Gaza with a van full of baked goods.”