Here's a true story that explains why Tzfat, a very poor town, has a lot of double strollers, which are expensive in Israel.
"Something for Nothing"
Every once in a while, you get a chance to change a person’s life, at little cost, with no inconvenience, and with minimal effort. All it takes is a little forethought and planning.
Here’s a real easy one:
Tzfat is a small town in the north of Israel, known for its cool summers, artists colony, and famous synagogues that date back to the times when Kabbalah flourished (it originated in Tzfat, and there are many mystical and holy places to see.)
It also has a high poverty rate. And it is hilly. Very hilly. A short walk becomes a workout if you go off the main thoroughfare, into the housing areas.
Typical tours take you to a few of the holy places to sightsee or pray, let you spend an hour or so in the Artist’s Quarter. Just outside the Quarter, a remarkable woman lives with her family. Hannah Levi runs a gemach out of her home for new mothers. She collects medicines, baby supplies, baby clothing (especially winter clothing), furniture, and strollers, in any condition, and loans them out or gives them away as needed. She used to provide electric heaters, but most of her clients can’t afford to use them. In the community that she works with, it is not uncommon for people to have 4, 5, 6 or more children, spaced closely together. The families are poor. They don’t have cars. For a mother with a toddler and an infant, this means that unless she has a double stroller, she is housebound. A single stroller won’t help, because the toddler can’t handle the hills. But double strollers in Israel are expensive, and these people are really poor.
So we send over double strollers with visitors. It’s easy, because we buy the strollers and deliver them to you before the trip. It’s convenient, because it does not count as part of your checked luggage or your two-bag limit—in fact, you are encouraged by the airlines to gate check them, which means that you wheel them thru security, right up to the airplane. You can even use it to get your carry-on luggage on and off the plane, long after your fellow passengers have given up their luggage carts at security. (In Tel Aviv, it’s even worse—there is a more than ½ mile walk from every gate to customs in the new airport. If you gate check the stroller, instead of putting it through as luggage, it will be waiting for you as you get off the plane, not at baggage.) It involves minimal effort—when your tour bus gets to Tzfat, just pull it out from the luggage compartment (where it has stayed until now), pile it high with whatever baby items/clothes you’ve brought to give away (new or used—it doesn’t matter—they welcome everything!), and wheel it down the main drag to the Safed Candle Factory, which everyone visits, or to the Ascent visitor center, just around the corner. All the staff at either place knows to call Hannah, and they will shower you with blessings! Hannah gets everything to the right people, and the stroller goes either to a family, or to a stairwell in one of the many apartment buildings, so the residents can share it as needed.
One last thing. When they ask you, as they sometimes do, at the ticket counter, “Where’s the baby?” you can use one of two responses we like. The first is to throw your hands to your face, exclaim “Oh my gosh, we forgot the baby!” and the second is to state, with a withering look, “The babies are traveling on a different flight.” (If you are not inclined to drama, just tell them that it is a gift for a needy family—they are very supportive.) When you get to Israel, Customs won’t even give you a second glance.
Have a great trip. If you want to contact Hannah for any reason, or ask her to meet your group to speak about the wonderful work she does, call her cellphone number: 050 9869989.
Have a great trip. You’ll be making a world of difference for these families.
What stroller is the best to bring?
The key is light-weight and sturdy, with extra space for storing groceries, etc. Any serviceable stroller will do, but if you can get your hands on the models below, or similar, they offer the best value for the money. Prices are from Target’s website—you should be able to do better at sales and close-outs.
Graco Dreamer Duo Glider $125 sku#030091754 at Target
Schwinn Recliner Double $100
Kolcraft Jeep Wagoneer Tandem $150
Chicco Caddy Stroller 698033/69113 $50
Chicco London Stroller 69477 $70
Graco Dream Lite Rider LXI $70
Graco Lite Rider Cooper $70