Rising to the challenge

A local organization delivers halla from Sderot.

sderot challa bread298.8 (photo credit: Courtesy)
sderot challa bread298.8
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On any given Friday in Jerusalem, it is hard to walk down the street without encountering the tempting smell of fresh-baked hallah. It works its way into our psyches and becomes synonymous with the peaceful atmosphere of Shabbat. Perhaps it is appropriate then, that as a new initiative to counter the burden borne by businesses in Sderot, hundreds of people are now ordering hallot from Sderot bakeries for Shabbat. The new initiative is the impetus of David Landau of Efrat, who works with an organization called Standing Together which helps distribute clothes, food and other services to weary IDF soldiers. Three weeks ago, he came to a sudden realization about the situation in Sderot. "I realized that there are those people who wear uniforms and those not in uniform," he says. "The people of Sderot are on the battlefield." The spirit of Landau's realization appears to have been taken to heart by others. After coming up with the idea, he created an order form on the Standing Together Web site and began to spread the word through his business network (he runs a company called Landau's Clean Chickens) and various English listserves. For NIS 25, a person could order two hallot and half a kilo of rugelach from Sderot. It took only two days from his conception of the idea on a Monday night two weeks ago to garner 1,200 halla orders by that same Wednesday. The orders were then delivered to a bakery in Sderot. Trucks in turn delivered the hallot to Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, and from there, volunteers distributed them to those who had ordered. "It's so cumbersome and difficult to do this," Landau says. "It's so amazing that it's happening." On its arrival in Sderot, the large order was very inspiring for its recipient. "It really lifts the spirit," says bakery owner Amos Houri. Houri says that there are many who want to work in his bakery, but so many people have left town that he hasn't been able to justify hiring extra staff. However, the extra orders have helped him to do that. "It's really uplifting to see that so many people want to help," he remarks. For the project's surprising success, Landau credits the amazing response of the Anglo community. "The initial order was purely from Anglos in the Jerusalem area," he reveals. "The Anglo community has a lot to be proud of. This is really a grassroots thing - people are just thinking of how they can help, [and] what they can do." One such person is a volunteer from Ramot who preferred not to be named. After reading a Jerusalem Post story about the activities of Lev Echad (a volunteer organization) in Sderot and noticing a link to a site to order Sderot hallot, she decided to get involved and contacted Landau. "When I saw that there was this opportunity to help people, I jumped at it. I was so frustrated, seeing the situation all the time - I thought, what can I do?" The volunteer, whose son has been volunteering in Sderot for the past week, notes that the program is "a very noble way of giving tzedaka [charity], where you can help someone earn money themselves." Although she is thrilled at the positive response that she has helped to generate so far (she received 70 orders within 24 hours after posting the idea on two local Ramot listserves and at janglo.com), and hopes that people will remain enthusiastic, she quickly notes that the best thing of all "would be for the need for such a program to end." Although most certainly share such a sentiment, Landau would like to spread the word to the Hebrew-speaking community while the need exists - but admits that the project "is not quite there yet." In the meantime though, he is keeping very busy trying to find other ways to help out those whom he sees as the plainclothes soldiers of the frontline. On the Standing Together Web site, one can also order a basket of food to be distributed to a needy family somewhere in Israel. Instead of that food being bought from supermarkets in Jerusalem or elsewhere, it is now bought wholesale from grocery stores in Sderot. "If there's a plant shop or something, we would like to say, 'Buy a plant from Sderot,'" Landau stresses. He says that the idea is not to turn the Negev town into a charity case or to create a sense of entitlement for hand-outs, but rather to support the economy of an Israeli town which is under attack in many ways, including economically. To that end, one of Landau's many projects has Sderot children using donated money to buy items locally, in order to assemble gift baskets which they then distribute to hospitals. It's not certain how much money these projects will pump into the local economy or whether they will have any impact on the deserted state of many Sderot streets, but at the very least, they serve as a friendly cushion for the harsh economic blow the attacks have dealt to the town. "The crucial thing is to keep the stores open. They're the backbone of the local economy and if they close, the city will fall," concludes Landau. Hallot can be ordered from the Standing Together Web site: http://www.stogether.org/sderotchallot.