Illustration by Denis Shifrin
A small section of Rothschild Street in Kfar Saba is buzzing as I search hopelessly for a parking place. Plastic chairs and tables spill out over the pavement at the corner shop where the local ice-cream parlor is doing brisk business. Buckets of brooms and sponjas – the Israeli answer to mops – stand on the sidewalk further down. And between the families eating their ice-cream cones and customers choosing brooms is a cluster of wheelchairs. Filipino caregivers have parked their charges outside one of their favorite spots in town – the Esra Nearly New Shop.
The elderly occupants of the wheelchairs have plenty to look at. Every square inch of the Esra shop window is crammed; shoes lie under sets of teacups, clocks and coats and kettles vie for space with skirts and telephones and pots and pans. “People bring us every imaginable thing to sell,” says Denis Lee, a retired South African graphic artist who manages the shop. “Apart from clothes and household goods we receive jewelry, pictures, books, antiques, toys and electrical goods; we even get collectors’ items – vintage records, china crockery – you name it, we stock it!” Once some kind soul donated half a carton of condoms, but Denis drew the line at that. “How would I have marketed those?” he wonders. “As nearly new?”
As the Esra shop celebrates ten years of service in Kfar Saba, Denis recalls some of the memorable moments. “Once a Filipino woman came into the shop and browsed through the pile of handbags. The next thing I knew, she approached me with $2,000 in cash that she had found in one of them!” Despite all Esra’s efforts to find the owner, the money was never claimed; but the buyer received a substantial discount on all her purchases from then on.
The customers in the shop are as varied as the merchandise. There are foreign workers who buy for themselves and often, according to Denis, find a little present for their employers, which they pay for with their own money. There are financially hard-up buyers for whom the bargains are a godsend, and wealthier customers searching for top quality clothes donated by other well-to-do inhabitants of Kfar Saba. Some customers stop by once a month to check out the goods, others pop in daily or even a few times a day. “Those who come often don’t bother with the stuff on the shelves,” says Denis. “They want things that have come straight out of newly received packets, like bread hot from the oven!” The volunteers who work in the shop are as varied as their clients – the shop is a babble of English, Hebrew, Russian, Amharic, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Spanish, French and German … and that’s as well as the hundred and seventy plus languages spoken in the Philippines!
Apart from being able to cope with customers who can’t speak English or Hebrew, volunteers have to think on their feet. Shoppers sometimes turn the shelves upside down in their hunt for the perfect bargain. “Once I was opening up the store,” says Denis, “when a lone man carrying a big file of documents came to browse. Within minutes he had created chaos in the shop – all my tidy merchandise was all over the place.” Denis enquired how the man had managed to make such a mess. “It wasn’t me, it was him,” answered the customer, though he was alone in the shop. Minutes later he approached Denis, distraught. His file had been buried under the goods, and was nowhere to be seen. “Don’t ask me, ask him,” Denis suggested – pointing at the empty space. “But there’s no-one else here,” replied the man. “Ah-ha!” said Denis, retrieving the file and handing it over. “Then you admit it was you who made this balagan!” Needless to say that was the last time that particular customer ever flung discarded items all over the floor.
The Nearly New Shops in Kfar Saba and Raanana are an important source of revenue to Esra, and help fund many of the community projects for which the organization is famous. But there is more to the story than that. Volunteering at the shop entails hours of fun – and volunteers can choose their hours to suit themselves. “We need more people to work with us to meet the ever-growing demand,” says Denis, “and volunteers can name their day, or even join us for part of a morning or afternoon.” Volunteering at the Esra shop is not only hard work – it also means meeting people, feeling part of the Esra family, helping to meet the challenges of absorbing new immigrants and having a good laugh. A warm welcome awaits any new volunteer – why not stop in and have a chat with Denis or call him on 050 750 6177.
The Esra Nearly New Charity Store:
45 Rothschild Street, Kfar Saba.
09 765 4652; 050 535 4884:
Ed Wolfe – volunteer convener of the Esra shops in Kfar Saba & Raanana.
Store opening hours: Mornings: Sunday – Friday 09 -12.30
Afternoons: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 16:00. – 18:00
Raanana second-hand shop
Shop manager. Giora Fried
Shop opening hours- Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 09:00. to 18:00
Open all dayTuesday and Friday 9:00. to 12 00
Please make sure to bring your donations during store hours as goods left outside are often stolen.