Booked for Barter

Gitit Hersh holds gatherings at which people mingle and exchange books for a token price, which goes to charity.

How did the alternative book week start?

Our family loves books; we always came out of the library with a basket of books. When I moved to Jerusalem, I discovered that I had a great many books that I didn’t know what to do with. I told myself that I would sell them to a secondhand store and make a pile. When I found that I wasn’t getting around to doing that, I started to think that if I had so many books, probably other people do, too. Because of all the sales in which you buy three or four books for NIS 100, people end up with books they don’t really want. It’s not like it used to be, when books were expensive and you would only buy books you connected with. These days you buy so many books but don’t really get connected to them.

What did you do?

As an experiment, I invited people to bring books they didn’t want and take books they did want. It’s a kind of barter market for a symbolic price of NIS 10 per book. The books go to people who want them and the money goes to good causes, to charity, so people are happy to pass the books on. As an employee of the Society for the Protection of Nature, I am very much involved in the subject of sustainability and recycling.

What’s really nice is that we don’t advertise − people find out from the Internet, on Facebook. Six years ago I wasn’t connected to Facebook and it worked by email.

How many people take part?

This is the sixth year, and more than 600 people came. We collected around NIS 6,000; there were years in which we collected more than NIS 8,000.

Where do so many people and books come together?

In a different place every time. It used to be in the apartments I lived in, in the street in the Nahlaot neighborhood [of Jerusalem], and this year in the foyer of a friend’s house. We try to do it in an open place. People suggested that we do it in large public places, but we said that wasn’t the idea, we want it to remain intimate, among friends, so it doesn’t get lost. Only people who love books show up, and talk among themselves. They talk with others about the books they bring and make recommendations. A book that’s junk for one person could be a find for another person. I found a book I’d been hunting for years.

The project also changed your life, didn’t it?

In the second year of the book exchange a nice guy by the name of Avinoam Hersh arrived to cover the event for the nrg website. We met at the event, started to date and got married. Now that we have a family, he is the driving force, he keeps the project going.

You started a trend.

I know about all kinds of events. A girlfriend of mine who was my partner in organizing the project at the start got married, moved away and is holding a book week where she lives now, in Nofei Prat, near Ma’aleh Adumim [in the West Bank]. I know about other places that adopted the idea, and that makes me very happy.