For her 40th birthday, Orli Ahrak decided to treat herself by purchasing the Eiffel Tower built from Lego blocks.
“The tower stands 1.2 meters high. I bought it secondhand, and it still cost me thousands of shekels,” says Ahrak. “Once I build something out of Lego, I never take it apart. If I need more room in the house for more Lego statues, I just move something out of the way. We took our books off the bookshelves to make room for more Lego. Now, it’s even begun taking over the kitchen. We probably have more than 200 sets of Lego in the house.”
Lego enthusiasts like Ahrak will be happy to hear that a Lego Park opened this past weekend at the Holon Toto Arena, that will run until the end of August. In addition to the three million Lego pieces that adults and children are welcome to build things with there, there are attractions such as a giant wheel, a carousel, bungee jumping, arts and crafts, PlayStation and Xbox stations. There will also be a future city exhibition displaying Lego creations made by children. A panel of judges will choose the winner, who will receive a free trip to LegoLand in California with her or his family.
But Lego is not just for kids. “Lego is fun for everyone,” says Ahrak. “Some people like to plan their concoctions step by step, whereas others like to create freely. Lego has continuously remained popular since I was a kid, and it’s my favorite hobby. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive to buy in Israel, and so every time a friend of mine flies overseas, I ask them to bring me back a set. Let’s just say no one has a hard time figuring out what to buy me for my birthday each year.”
When did your interest in Lego begin?
“I don’t remember ever not playing with Lego, but in recent years, my collection has gathered momentum. I now own famous buildings from around the world, such as Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, the UN building, the White House and the Eiffel Tower. The last model I built was of the Taj Mahal, which is made from 5,923 pieces.”
How long did it take you to build it?
“In total, about seven hours. I spend a little time every day building with Lego. Every shelf in my house is covered with something built from Lego.”
Do you let people touch things you’ve constructed from Lego?
“Some of them.”
How many Lego figures have you made over the years?
“I don’t know. Probably hundreds,” says Ophir Kaduri, 42, a father of two who lives in Petah Tikva. “There are Lego pieces scattered around our entire house. Some of them are still in boxes while others are sitting in bags.”
Do you take structures apart after you’ve built them?
“Sometimes. I like to clean them when they get dirty. When I was young, I would reuse all the pieces since I didn’t have so many.”
How do you clean Lego?
“You just take it apart and put the pieces in a pillow case that can be closed with a zipper. Put them in the washing machine for 20 minutes and they come out perfectly clean. Of course, you shouldn’t wash pieces with stickers or electrical pieces.”
Kaduri admits that he’s addicted to building with Lego. “I began playing with Duplo when I was three or four, and then moved on to Lego as I got older. In those days, Lego was even more expensive than today, and so my grandparents used to bring me sets when they took trips overseas. Now, I can afford to buy lots of Lego. My older son, Yuval, 10, is also really into Lego. I had around 10 to 15 sets when I was his age, but I think he has hundreds. And he’s always asking for more.”
This is not such a cheap hobby.
“I’ve probably spent tens of thousands of shekels on Lego. Whenever I go overseas, I bring ten sets home. And whenever relatives of mine go on a trip I make sure they bring us back a set. I’ve also bought a few sets secondhand. I bought one set from a professor in the US for $120 that could have sold for NIS 2,000.”
“Yeah, this hobby can start to get pretty expensive,” agrees Chaim Spiegel, 50, a father of three from Ashdod. “Prices have gone down in Israel, but it’s still much cheaper to buy Lego overseas.”
In his spare time, Kaduri manages a Facebook group of Lego collectors. “Our community numbers about 2,000 hardcore Lego users here in Israel. People upload pictures of new sets they acquired or structures they’ve built.”
Do you have any unique pieces?
“Yes. I’ve had Lego since I was seven, so some of them are vintage pieces,” says Kaduri. “I also have a 4x4 blue jeep that’s probably worth a few hundred euro. We also built statues of all our family members – including the cat.”
“I have an incredible collection of technical Lego pieces, including 10 trains, some of which were made back in the 1970s,” says Spiegel. “I’ve kept all the catalogues, instruction pamphlets and even the boxes. I even have some at my office.”
Oso Bayu, 45, calls herself an AFOL (adult fan of Lego). The mother of two from Ness Ziona, Bayu recalls that she and her brother loved playing with Lego when they were little, and her son, Guy, 13, is continuing the tradition. “But we’ve stopped buying Lego since we’ve run out of space,” says Bayu.
How much time do you spend on Lego?
“I love spending time on the weekends constructing large animals. I come into my son’s room and together we build Lego characters according to instructions, or things we create from our imagination. We also have pieces on the dining-room table, although we try to make an effort not to have Lego pieces on the table while we’re eating.”
Do you think that everyone can build with Lego?
“Sure. But if you want to make something special, you need to understand how each piece influences the next.”
Do you take Lego apart?
“Yes, it’s heartbreaking to take apart something amazing that you’ve spent many long, hard hours creating, but that’s part of the learning process. We need to understand that they’re toys that don’t last forever, that we don’t need to take life so seriously, and that we need to get through hard periods in life. It’s also important to learn how to handle the frustration when your Lego creation doesn’t come out exactly like you wanted it to. Playing with Lego can be a very educational experience.”
“It’s fun to build with Lego,” adds Spiegel. “We build things, take them apart and then build something else. I even discovered a mistake once on an instruction sheet and so I wrote the company and they issued a new page with the corrected instructions,” he smiles proudly.
What do you enjoy most about creating with Lego?
“There are always new methods to learn. When the kids were little, it was a great way for them to develop their motor skills. And later, they worked hard to read the instructions. I’ve formed relationships with Lego users worldwide from Facebook groups – even people living in Iraq and Egypt. There are groups of adult Lego users in many countries around the world, including a small one in Israel. Some people prefer to engage in MOC (my own creation) whereas others – myself included – prefer to follow instructions. At the moment I’m working on a city that will cover our entire living room. We’ll leave it up for two or three days, then it’ll be time to take it down.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.