Written in first person by Sharona and Gilad Harish, Lasova’s founders.
In 1985 we founded the Gagon Maon Zmani Lekol Nizkak [Temporary Homeless Shelter for Anyone in Need] NGO. In 1990, we set up Lasova and the shelter activities were merged into the new organization. Lasova currently operates 40 institutions and projects throughout the country. It provides basic and essential services to the most underprivileged sectors of society. The prophet Isiah is the inspiration for all our work:
“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (58:7)
The Lasova institutions and projects include the following:
- 21 Kadima youth centers for after-school education, from Kiryat Shmona and Safed in the north to Arad and Ofakim in the south. More than 1000 children referred to us by welfare authorities attend the youth centers on a daily basis. Kadima youth centers offer a year-long program intended to reduce disparities by providing help with homework, English proficiency and computer literacy lessons and structured activities.
- 13 homeless shelters, 2 for women and 9 for men for 130 homeless people.
- 3 Lasova restaurants in Tel Aviv, Acre, and Karmiel provide over 2000 hot and nutritious meals every day. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we received a thousand new requests for food assistance every day.
- Gan Salame and Gan Sha’anan daycares in Tel Aviv for 250 infants and toddlers (as of June 2021) for members of the Eritrean community. The daycares are a safe alternative to the “baby warehouses” and provide a healthy, warm and stimulating environment for the children.
- Asif Ha’Ir – vehicles collect surplus food from halls, restaurants, and institutions.
- Tel-Lasova – a discounted cellular data package for people who do not have a credit card and who cannot pay for a regular subscription to a cellular plan.
- Lasova card, is a means of payment for food products up to NIS 250 per month at grocery stores. The card protects the recipient’s dignity and privacy.
- MIVTZA – Muvtalim Tzovim Ba’am [Unemployed Painters Ltd.], a public benefit company (wholly owned by Lasova) that employs homeless people, drug addicts, and unemployed individuals in painting work as a first step in their rehabilitation.
Many people ask why and how we became involved in welfare work. We also ask ourselves and the only answer we have is our good fortune. As lawyers, and like many of our friends, we contacted the welfare department of the Tel Aviv Municipality and offered to handle lawsuits and legal matters for underprivileged people pro-bono. The municipality referred two cases of homeless women to us for legal assistance and that is how we became exposed to the hardships of people without a roof over their heads. We vowed to help homeless individuals and together with our work as self-employed lawyers, we embarked upon our path as volunteers in the welfare sphere. This quickly became a way of life.
We witnessed the hardships of the homeless and decided to set up a shelter for them. In 1985 we founded the Gagon Maon Zmani Lekol Nizkak NGO, and with a very modest sum donated by our friends, clients and ourselves, we set up the shelter in the Yemenite Quarter near the Carmel Market in 1986. This was the first homeless shelter in Israel. We subsequently established 11 homeless shelters providing accommodation for 130 homeless people. The shelters are the first significant step in their rehabilitation. The Tel Aviv Municipality is constructing a new, spacious, and state of the art homeless shelter for 75 homeless drug addicts. It will be inaugurated in the autumn of 2021 and operated by Lasova.
The shelter was the basis of a broad range of welfare services developed and provided by Lasova. The shelter residents need food, and in 1990 we established the Lasova restaurant in Tel Aviv. It was the first soup kitchen in the non-religious sector. The flow of donations made it possible to establish and operate additional restaurants in Acre and Karmiel.
The people dining at the Lasova restaurants are a mixed crowd – young and old, unemployed and handicapped, homeless, and single mothers. They all have in common humiliating poverty and, of course, nutritional insecurity. In this context, it is important to clarify that there is no widespread famine in Israel. However, there is a severe phenomenon of nutritional insecurity and malnutrition, most seriously affecting children and adolescents at risk.
The desire to give the children and youth a meal that is better suited to their preferences and age justified serving their meals separately. This prompted the winning formula of a meal at the Lasova restaurant after school followed by supplemental education to reduce learning gaps, prevent their dropout from school and advance them, all in order to ensure that they fit into mainstream society as adults, rather than stay on the margins.
We installed a computer in the restaurant at a time when computers were uncommon and employed an instructor to help the children and teenagers dining with us with their homework. In 1998, we established the first youth center in the Kadima network, which currently includes 21 youth center throughout Israel.
Good fortune exposed us in 1985 to the misfortune of the homeless people in Tel Aviv and led to the establishment of 37 welfare and education institutions listed above.
Since 1985, we have increasingly benefitted from our privilege to serve as agents on behalf of thousands of generous donors and to operate with and through thousands of volunteers, for the guarantee of the most basic needs of the lowest percentile of society.
Lasova is like an orchestra with many tunes, players, and instruments, and we are honored to have the privilege of establishing and conducting it.
We are very grateful for the participation in our projects of thousands of donors connected by word of mouth, and for their donations that totaled approximately NIS 17 million in 2020. We do not conduct public advertising campaigns or fundraising events and we do not employ publicists or fundraisers. Since 1986 this has enabled all of Lasova’s institutions to function on a regular basis. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the flow of donations increased, and we were able to increase the scope of our activities to match growing needs.
We are extremely proud of the 80 Service Year volunteers and 45 National Service young women and men who serve as instructors at the Kadima youth centers each year, the hundreds of regular volunteers and thousands of other volunteers who chose Lasova as a platform for giving back to their community.
We are very proud of the 95 Lasova employees, who are the backbone of all the institutions. We are especially proud of twelve employees, former homeless individuals who rebuilt their lives at our institutions.
In 1985 we reached the welfare sphere through the legal sphere, and the welfare sphere took us out of the legal sphere. In late 2013 we closed our law firm and decided to focus exclusively on the welfare sphere. Since then we have been devoting all our time and energy to the running of Lasova, without pay.
Concurrent to shutting down our law firm, we bought a house in Hatzor HaGlilit and we divide our time between Ramat Hasharon and Hatzor HaGlilit. Needless to say, we can’t conclude our life story without mentioning our 3 children and 8 grandchildren.
In the photo: Sharona and Gilad Harish when they founded Lasova.