Charging that they stole millions of dollars in donor funds, police in Israel have arrested the director and nine staff members of Hazon Yeshaya, a well-known charity based in Jerusalem that for years has been providing thousands of hot meals to poor people on a daily basis. The authorities claim that – rather than use the charity money to purchase food and distribute it to needy residents, including Holocaust survivors – the Hazon Yeshaya personnel sold the food it had bought to Chareidi buyers.
According to authorities, the charity was active in transferring reparations payments from Germany to Holocaust survivors, and also received money intended for survivors from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The arrests were accompanied by an official raid on Hazon Yeshaya’s offices, where documents were seized, and they were preceded by an undercover investigation begun several months ago by the police’s National Fraud Unit. The police additionally suspect the charity organization of money laundering, aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods and forging corporate documents.
Begun in the late 1990s, Hazon Yeshaya’s official mandate has been food distribution for the poor and provision of dental care to those in need. “This charity is considered to be one of the largest in the country,” the police stated. “It receives tens of millions of dollars from donors abroad.” The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended the immediate prison stay of the charity’s director, Abraham Israel, by three days, while two of the nine staff members arrested had their detention extended by five days.
As a nonprofit that in the course of the past two years has received nearly as much as $2 million from a worldwide donor base, Hazon Yeshaya became the target of scrutiny in recent months from many of those benefactors. Last October, Friends of Hazon Yeshaya divisions in Canada and England began expressing their doubts over the legitimacy of the scope of the organization’s activities in Israel. As a result, supporting branches in France, Australia, South Africa and Hong Kong suspended their fundraising activities. In January, Israel’s Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations confirmed that it was reviewing complaints it had received about Hazon Yeshaya.