Essential Question: How does one authentically give back when they are thankful?

Some 1,500 children at risk, who don’t always get a Passover present, will not only receive a gift this year but will get what they asked for. All thanks to an Israeli high-tech entrepreneur who saw the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Christmas initiative in action and decided to bring it to Israel with a few tweaks.

Known locally as Mission Afikoman (Mivtza Afikoman), the Israeli project paired the startup community with at-risk children to ensure that no one would be left out during the traditional gift-giving season.

Wrapped boxes with earphones, makeup kits, dolls, building blocks and sports equipment are now being sorted at 22 high-tech firms for delivery to seven charity organizations throughout the country.

The two times a year that gift-giving opportunities take on great importance in Israel are Passover and Rosh Hashana. It’s not just families bearing gifts, but also the Israeli business community.

Companies tend to hand out gifts or vouchers (shy le’chag in Hebrew) as their way of saying “Happy New Year” (Rosh Hashana) or Happy Holidays/Let’s Celebrate the Ancient Israelites’ Freedom from Slavery (Passover).

BioCatch founder Benny Rosenbaum, who passed away in mid-March and won’t get to see the great success of his idea, decided to take this tradition and extend it beyond the business world.

The website invites children to enter their wishes and participating companies to fulfill them. Photo: Mission Afikoman Facebook page
The website invites children to enter their wishes and participating companies to fulfill them. Photo: Mission Afikoman Facebook page

He was in the US on a business trip at the end of last year when he ran across the American gift-giving assistance project and brought it back to Israel, upgraded it by building a special online platform, and called on the startup world to give back to the community.

The online website,  which is now closed, had an area for the kids to leave a request (between NIS 40 and NIS 100) and another area for high-tech employees to buy or donate toward the gift requested.

BioCatch, a leading provider of cognitive biometric, authentication and malware detection solutions, collaborated with big-data analytics leaders SQream Technologies to get the project off the ground.

“Our goal is to make children happy, even if it’s just a small contribution,” reads the statement explaining Mission Afikoman.

BioCatch and SQream brought another 20 companies on board.

The presents are wrapped and waiting to be delivered days before the Seder takes place.

“What was special here was that the children and teens asked for presents and then high-tech employees bought the presents for them,” Nirit Ben Zion of BioCatch told ISRAEL21c. “We’re not a charity group; we’re a startup. And this was the project of a man who took an idea and changed it for the high-tech world.”