Kids who live in the Western Negev learn how to run for cover at a very young age. But they also learn a thing or two about helping others. I’m thinking of the offspring of a family who, during the sweltering, dangerous days of Operation Protective Edge, chose not to vacate their home on the border. Instead, this family engaged in laundering clothing for troops stationed nearby and locating vegan soldiers stationed in the Eshkol Region, cooking and delivering meals to them, while explosive projectiles were flying around above their heads. Offspring of people like that ingest the desire to help others, together with their mother’s milk.
Even when not at war, most of our kids-turned-soldiers rough it all week, anxiously awaiting the weekends when they can get home for a respite, catch up on sleep and go out with childhood friends who, during the week, are dispersed on bases all over the country. Shiri is my amazing friend’s amazing daughter who is serving her country by training infantry in the IDF. Most days (and nights) you can find her outside in the dusty desert, on practice maneuvers.
Despite her exhausting weeks, Shiri took it upon herself to initiate a project that would benefit others. She has undertaken to create a second-hand bazaar in her little village in the Western Negev. Why? She, with her three-day weekends, and the usual desires of any energetic, popular 20-year-old. Whence this “need” to use the time in a way that is meaningful; “to do good”? (I’m sure it’s in her DNA.)
Her enterprise is called “The Dress from Madrid” (named after a song she loves). For four months she has been advertising via Facebook and word-of-mouth; spending her weekends collecting cast-offs. She’s been diligent in letting family, friends and neighbors know that instead of throwing things away when they clear out their closets, she would be happy to find their items a new home. It wasn’t easy to procure a suitable space to store the items to keep them clean and ready for their new owners. All this she did, however, with a non-existent budget, in anticipation of the opportune time for D-day.
Shiri grew up here, in the dichotomy of the periphery of Israel’s Western Negev, where we are usually swathed in nature’s sounds. Here, where we have made the desert bloom, we hear either gleeful laughter of kids romping the virtually car-free streets, speeding off on missions of joy, with the smallest trying to keep up on his tricycle or utter quiet when you can practically make out the words of the birdsong around you.
Of course, there’s also the other scenario, when you hear the Red-Alert early-warning rocket system, the whistle of a missile speeding over your head, or the rattling of the windows from explosions of incoming rocket fire or not-so-distant explosions on the other side of the border. Between the longer (sometimes shorter) breaks in the cycle of violence of rocket attacks-retaliation- more rockets-escalations, there are also periods of relative (but never complete) military calm in the region.
Shiri’s counter offensive, on weekends when she dons jeans rather than khaki, is a project based on creating what she calls “a circle of good”. Last weekend was the premier, the first turn of the circle, in which she sold items which others once loved, yet no longer needed. Good for the environment, good for positive repercussions within the community where, unless you want to go on a hike, or ride through the sand dunes, there aren’t many organized ways to socialize on lazy Friday afternoons. And, of course, it’s VERY good for the kids with special needs who will benefit from 100% of the proceeds of the items sold.
Apprehensive at first, due to sudden rain the evening before, Shiri awoke on the morning of the designated day, last Friday, to welcoming sunshine. She built it, and they came: from her community, from the region, and even from beyond, bearing more bags of possessions to be donated. Army-friends from the center of the country, bitten with her bug, helped populate and run the day. The beer, lemonade and homemade refreshments flowed lovingly, helping make the long hours and hard work of the prior four months of preparation reach targets that exceeded her expectations.
I, unfortunately, had to miss out but I’m so happy it happened – and, of course, I wanted to share it with you all, as well. Next time, I’ll be there, too. Promise.
If you wish to donate clothes, handbags, jewelry or other items in good condition to this exceptional social enterprise, let me know and I will put you in touch with Shiri.