| Family First Feature |

7 on Seven: Ruby Bottles of Mitzvos

The Shivas Haminim, the seven species with which the land of Eretz Yisrael is blessed, have always had significance for Jews. Recently, research has proven the startling health benefits of pomegranates. One Manchester-based housewife has created an empire of chesed from the glistening seeds of the rimon.


With its mottled pink and brown exterior, you’d never guess that the inside of a pomegranate is touted as a wonder-food. As coordinator of a pomegranate juice gemach in her home in Manchester, England since 2009, Ita Rivka Heimann, aka Mrs. Pommy, can tell you all about the glory of the pomegranate.

When her close relative, Moshe Steinberg,* was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, Ita Rivka was dismayed by the debilitating effects of chemotherapy on his body. Treatment left him weakened, with a fragile immune system and skin stained a pallid yellow. When she heard about the benefits of pomegranates, especially for cancer patients, Ita Rivka requested juice from a London pomegranate juice gemach. Moshe drank two bottles. Within two days, he said he “felt amazing.”

The jubilation Ita Rivka experienced still rings in her voice today. “I phoned the administrator and said, ‘I know it’s only psychological, but the patient says he feels so much better.’ She said, ‘No, it doesn’t surprise me at all. It isn’t psychological. The hospital consultants cannot get over how wonderful this pomegranate juice is.’”

After celebrating the positive impact of the pomegranate juice on Moshe, Mrs. Heimann decided to squeeze more for him. She bought six pomegranates from her local Tesco. “I borrowed a shmatteh machine from my friend. You had to put the seeds through three times to get enough juice. I thought, if it works, fine, if not, I’ve only wasted £9.”

Incredibly, after drinking Ita Rivka’s juice, Moshe’s skin rapidly regained its color. She began to squeeze pomegranates for him regularly, cajoling her whole family to join her.

Despite the effort involved, when she sees the juice’s effect on patients, Ita Rivka says she’ll do whatever it takes to keep the gemach going. “It’s unbelievable. In a couple of days people start feeling better. It brings up the blood count, and the skin goes from greenish yellow to pink.” She tells of one patient who could eat and drink nothing. After he drank pomegranate juice, his wife telephoned Ita Rivka, jubilant, reporting that he’d eaten a small piece of chicken. “It was the first piece of food he’d eaten in a week, and it gave the wife something to hang onto.”

Skeptics may claim the benefits of pomegranate juice are all in the mind, but Ita Rivka says, “We know it’s not psychological. We get the same positive feedback from cholim over and over again. We had a six-year-old who’d been ill for ages. To her, pomegranate juice looks no different from Ribena [a popular British soft drink]. After two days, she was a different person. She had energy.”

“If we can alleviate people’s suffering in any way, we want to,” Ita Rivka declares. “We daven that there will be no need for Poms 4 Refuoh, but meanwhile, we can’t stop doing it because of the feedback we get. When you see the benefits firsthand, you dare not stop.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 412)

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