Reeling from the knowledge that terror had come into their small city, the residents of Ma'ale Adumim decided to focus on helping the family of Tzvika Cohen, the security guard who was attacked and critically wounded recently by a Palestinian Arab terrorist who knew him- and who worked in the local mall he was guarding.
As Arutz Sheva reported at the time, the guard was brutally attacked with an axe and a knife in his back by Saadi Ali Abu Hamad, a 21-year-old Palestinian resident who had a legal permit to work at the mall.
Almost immediately, city officials, local rabbis, and many citizens rushed in to try to help the family cope with the situation and an original idea was born. One week later, hundreds of residents were rummaging through close to 4,000 donated books, purchasing baked goods, and raising tens of thousands of shekels for the Cohen family.
“We’ve been doing these Book Swap twice a year for more than four years,“ explained Paula Stern, one of the organizers, and a frequent op-ed contributor to Arutz Sheva. “I was speaking to my son about how the family needed help. They’re making a bar mitzvah in a few weeks and with four children and Tzvika in the hospital and his wife by his side, things are very difficult. Then, my son asked why we didn’t do a book swap and I thought it was a great idea.”
So, that’s what they did. Usually, the Book Swaps take weeks to plan and implement. This time, the organizers scheduled the event for Wednesday and Thursday night (March 2 and 3), just three days after Stern spoke with her son. Since the event was being held on the day before Shabbat, Stern thought of the idea of combining the Book Swap with a Bake Sale and so it became the Book and Bake Sale.
“I put out a call and people volunteered for everything. To donate books, to collect them, to sort through them, to be cashiers. To bake cakes, to organize and display them. Everything. The first night we sold about 9,000 shekels ($2300) worth of books,” said Stern, “and people donated another 5,000 shekels ($1300). We usually raise about 15,000 shekels ($3800) altogether, so I was very happy after the first night. Because we organized it in only 3 days, I was trying to prepare myself for raising a lot less. I didn’t tell anyone, but my goal was to break 10,000.”
The first night, after everyone had left, Stern found herself in the empty room with her middle son, who works at the mall in security on weekends. He was telling her the latest from the Cohen family and they were talking about the terror attack when two friends walked in with dozens and dozens of boxes of baked goods, donated to the Book and Bake Swap by the Coney Island Bakery.
Stern announced the donation on Facebook late Wednesday night and began to sense that people were as excited about the cupcakes and about the Bake Sale as they usually are about the Book Swap. Thursday evening, more volunteers came to organize the cupcakes, cookies – and dozens of cakes that were donated by community members. In addition to brownies, cookies, tarts, and cakes, there were also fruit preserves donated and tens of Challah rolls. The doors opened on the second night at 7:30 p.m., with all books reduced to 3 shekels a piece, and three large tables crammed with the baked goods.
“I told the cashiers to drop the price on the baking goods by 50 percent after 45 minutes. I was terrified we’d be left with half the food. Instead, it was all gone in 16 minutes.”
All told, the Book and Bake Sale raised a record-breaking 24,633.50 shekels (about $6300). “I’m stunned, I’m humbled, I’m speechless,” said Stern. “The first night when people came in, I told them that every book they buy is with the hope that the Almighty send Achiya Tzvi ben Batya (Tzvika’s Hebrew name) a full and speedy recovery. One recently bat-mitzvahed girl came and gave 200 shekels, which was 10% of the presents she had received. A lot of people just told us to keep the change and more people just handed us hundreds of shekels to add to the tally.”
In addition to the almost 25,000 shekels raised, Ma'ale Adumim residents donated another 14,000 shekels ($3500) in a separate fundraising campaign. All funds have been made available to the Cohen family, who continue to sit at Tzvika’s bedside.