The recent wave of fires attributed to terror-arsonists, which forced 80,000 Israelis out of theirr homes, revealed a hidden hero. With no place to go and no food to bring along, evacuees were assisted by a Jerusalem-based organization that swung into action even before government assistance became available.

“We are built for this,” explains Aryeh Lurie, founder of Yad Ezra V’Shulamit, which distributes 3,000 food baskets to needy families every month and feeds and supports 500 children in its afterschool centers every day. “We had the food in our warehouses and the trucks, staff and volunteers ready to ship food to Haifa immediately.

“Our donation line, *9171, was announced on the radio, and it quickly turned into a command center through we matched up people calling in what they needed with people calling in what they could provide. We also matched up hundreds of evacuated families with Israelis who opened their homes to them. It was beautiful to see all of Am Israel working together to help each other in a time of great need.”

Only days later did the government promise each fire victim 2500 shekels (about $650) to alleviate their distress. It took a few more days until victims received the compensation. Some still needed help, and Yad Ezra V’Shulamit continued to care for them until they were allowed to return to their homes.

In war and in peace, Yad Ezra V’Shulamit is always on call. During the Gaza War and the Second Lebanon War, Lurie himself led convoys of trucks into the war zone to bring beleaguered families food and supplies. “People called us directly from the bomb shelters, begging for help,” he recalls. “Our warehouses and trucks allowed us to kick in immediately and provide food to those in need.

“Sometimes we hear from poor people who seek a weekly food basket, and sometimes from people who aren’t necessarily poor, but because of war or terrorism, have no access to food. To me, they are all the same: they are hungry and we have to feed them. I grew up poor myself, so I know they can’t wait a few more days. We must reach them immediately.”