Malbi in Kfar Saba is a huge warehouse where people can come and buy secondhand furniture and goods cheaply.
Everything there is donated, so it is sold at really low prices.
The acronym stands for Merkaz Le’avizrei Bayit (Center for Home Accessories), and Yehuda Aviad, who has been the manager for four years, rules this kingdom of old kitchen cabinets and battered washing machines with a firm but affable hand, befitting the ex-sergeant-major he is.
Everyone knows him as Yehuda and he knows everyone – his regular
customers, his 40 volunteers and, perhaps most importantly, his stock,
which is sprawled over nearly a dunam of covered warehouse.
When someone puts his head round the office door during our interview to
ask Yehuda if they have a small refrigerator, he shakes his head. He
knows what they have because he inspects everything that comes in,
making sure that nothing is put out for sale unless it is in perfect
His field of expertise is electricity and he worked in this until he
retired. So you can be sure if you acquire a secondhand television,
dishwasher, washing machine or refrigerator, that it is going to work.
He has been volunteering at Malbi for 15 years, and in the last four he
has been running the place. He comes in at 7:30 a.m. and stays until
closing at 5.
“Sometimes I come in at night and open up so people can take stuff,” he says.
Since he took over the reins, the organization, which used to be a little haphazard, is now run with military precision.
“We collect things from all over the Sharon area,” he says. “When we get
a call that someone has furniture to dispose of, we send our drivers to
pick it up. We take down the details on the phone about who they are
and what they are donating and the driver arrives with this information,
plus a card thanking them for their contribution.
“Then the item is thoroughly examined. I deal with the electrical
equipment and we have a resident carpenter who is in charge of all the
wood things. Every wardrobe is photographed before it is taken apart so
he knows exactly how to put it together again, and the client also knows
what he is buying.”
Aviad was born in Yemen in 1941, so he was nearly eight when his family
started the trek that would lead them to Operation Magic Carpet and a
new life in the newly established State of Israel. He remembers it well,
the hardships of the month’s trek, boarding the aircraft for the flight
which they dubbed “on eagles’ wings,” and the months spent in the
transit camps where one tent housed several families, each in its
“It was all very strange to us,” he recalls. “Seeing Jews without head
coverings who took us and cut off our peyot. My mother gave birth to a
healthy baby boy and they told her he had died. But she didn’t believe
them and she went to the hospital and found him and brought him back.
Many families weren’t so lucky.”
The traumas of his early childhood have affected him in that he
appreciates life now and feels the situation is so much better than it
was in the 1950s.
At 12 he was apprenticed to an electrician and learned on the job,
helping to support his family. His father didn’t work and his mother was
In 1966, with the country in a huge depression, he decided to enlist in
the regular army as this would at least provide a steady income, and he
stayed there for nearly 20 years.
Happily married, with five children and 13 grandchildren, he devotes
many hours a day to Malbi and enjoys every minute of it. Besides helping
people who can’t afford to buy new, everything in his stock is being
recycled rather than dumped.
He has spare parts for everything and shows me drawers full of gas knobs and piles of washing-machine belts.
“We don’t throw anything away,” he says.
Under his direction, Malbi also helps the less fortunate, donating money
to other nonprofits, making bar mitzva celebrations for underprivileged
kids, providing heaters for old people and scholarships for slow
On three occasions hoards of money have been found in donated furniture.
The last time it was NIS 30,000 which, like the other times, went
straight to the police. They regularly find jewelry, which they try to
return to the donor.
They also have a small shop selling all kinds of small items, like dishes, light fixtures, kettles and paintings.
Electronic organs come in at regular intervals.
“Suppose you get something really valuable, a good painting or a Clarice Cliff tea set?” I ask him.
“We wouldn’t know,” he says with his big smile.