Ayala (not her real name) was the youngest of six children. Her parents had always strived hard to provide the basic essentials. Life in Israel had never been easy for the family. Nevertheless, theirs was a warm and happy home steeped in traditional Ethiopian family values.
Ayala’s father worked two jobs to put food on the table, and Ayala’s mother worked as a cleaner. Because of their working status, they received no assistance from the welfare authorities. When Ayala’s father suffered a work accident which left him unable to work, her mother had no choice but to stay home and take care of him. This unfortunate situation put a tremendous financial and emotional strain on the entire family.
One day, when Ayala’s mother came to collect her daughter from the WIZO Day Care Center that Ayala had attended for the past two years, she broke down in tears. The Day Care Center director led her into the office and asked her what was the matter.
Ayala’s mother admitted how difficult it was to make ends meet and she confessed that she had no one to turn to. It was clear that she was having difficulties coping. Patiently, the Day Care Center director listened. “I don’t eat,” Ayala’s mother admitted through tears. “There is not enough food to go around and I must feed my children first.”
The Day Care Center staff mobilized a plan to get the family the welfare assistance it badly needed and the kindly WIZO Day Care Center cooks would often send food home with Ayala’s mother so that she, too, would eat. They were always careful to do this when no other parent was around, to save the embarrassment of this proud, brave yet exhausted mother.
Through the intervention of the Day Care Center staff, the family has received much needed support and Ayala’s mother has returned to work part time, while her husband receives the benefits and compensation due to him. He is undergoing subsidized rehabilitation and is confident that he will be fit to return to work soon. The clouds of doom have lifted from the family. Ayala’s mother wanted to show her appreciation to the kindly staff members at the day care center, but the day care director insisted that no thanks were necessary. It was all in a day’s work, she said.
The sad reality is that the situation of Ayala's family is not uncommon. In fact, over 21% of Israelis are living under the poverty line, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2016) - more than in countries such as Mexico, Turkey, and Chile.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)