The following article by Jade, z"l – explaining the aims of the Project and describing how it works – was published in the ETAI Forum, 14,2, Summer 2003. Portions which are no longer relevant have been deleted (with deletions indicated by means of square brackets and three dots).

The Books for Israel Project

By Jade Bar Shalom

The "Books for Israel Project" was founded to help Israeli children from all ethnic and religious groups in any geographic location in the country gain access to authentic English language literature by stocking the libraries of participating schools with quality second–hand books donated by English speaking communities abroad. All books are sent free of cost to [coordinating] schools. Each donated book has a special plate pasted on the inside cover which bears the "Books for Israel" logo and that notes the individual or community who donated the book with love children in Israel.

How does the Project Work?

B4I promotes the need for English language literacy and supportive communications abroad. … B4I is a massive matchmaking service. We have no offices, no officers, and no board of directors. No one at any level of this project receives any funds, salaries or stipends for all their efforts whatsoever. My sister, Rena Cohen, my husband Ilan and myself coordinate all communications, usually between 11 pm and 3 am. It really does all pay off so long as the Israeli schools take up their end of the responsibility and communicate as required with their donors.

What Materials Can the Project Provide for Israeli Schools?

Before books are sent, book drive organizers and volunteers abroad scan all the books for quality and content. They remove any books that are worn out or unsuitable for a child to handle. They then work from our on–site general lists of acceptable materials. Sometimes the lists are modified by special requests sent from their adopted [school] based on that community's particular needs.

EFL materials are not available through this project, although sometimes graded readers and ESL related books find their way into the collection boxes.

But How Can We Teach With Authentic Language English Texts?

Some teachers have dismissed this project out of hand since it cannot supply EFL–monitored and edited texts. Others, however, are successfully taking up the challenge, not only with their native–speaker students, but with lower level readers as well.

Educators are experimenting on ways to use this free source of authentic English language literature to enrich vocabulary and develop a love for literature. Teachers and students are becoming increasingly resourceful at adapting themselves to the possibilities of learning in different ways, using dictionaries and private vocabulary lists to help themselves. This project is not an answer for the shortage of funds for education or the lack of funds for EFL readers. It is, however, an alternative source of wonderful books and a great way for teachers and students to develop meaningful communications with communities abroad.

For our stronger readers, the wealth of different English dialects, styles, and national story favorites can help enrich appreciation for English literature and the diversity of language standards. For all readers, the variety of cultures expressing themselves in English, including immigrant, aboriginal and postcolonial writers, helps to encourage respect for all peoples, cultures, and living things.

How Do Potential Donors Find Out about the Project?

Rena and I initially began by writing letters and e–mail messages to contacts in the United States and other English–speaking countries and by asking colleagues to do the same. We have spoken about B4I at a number of public functions. Thanks to the support of other people with access to media, B4I has received local promotion through donated radio airtime, articles in local and community press, and through internet links. We ask Israeli school teachers from [participating] schools to use their trips abroad as opportunities to spread news of the project. In addition, the B4I website … is now easily accessed internationally by Google and other search engines.

Who Are the People Collecting Books for this Project?

Sometimes we hear from community political or religious leaders. Sometimes a group of boy or girl scouts in some remote region decides to adopt a region of Israeli schools. Sometimes adults from a variety of professions, elderly people in retirement homes, or individual school–aged children write to us to find out how to start a book drive. Book drives are being run by individuals and groups representing a wide range of religious, ethnic, and geographic communities in many states in the U.S. Recently a new book drive has begun in Montreal, Canada, and we are hearing good news of potential new book drives springing up in Australia and, most recently, in the Netherlands. We hope someday that communities in South Africa, England, Ireland and Scotland will also get involved.

By making ours an entirely volunteer, grassroots effort, B4I enables people from a variety of political and religious persuasions to help out communities they choose to adopt directly, and to witness the impact of their efforts by hearing from, and in some cases, visiting their adopted schools. As a result of book drive collection efforts, diverse communities of people who have never met are being brought together through this project, making their shared support for Israel a reason for developing communication and friendship between their different denominations, religious persuasions and ethnic groups. Sometimes book collections become an opportunity for fruitful discussions and education about Israel and current events in the Middle East, offering opportunities to correct misinformation in the media and to hear other voices they might not have recognized before. The book drives can therefore enable an appreciation for the diversity of Israeli society and Israeli opinion.

Usually only a few people in each area abroad take on the responsibility for running a book drive for their town, city or a larger geographic community. These people are usually employed full time, with families of their own. They run their book drives and all communications during what could be their free evenings, weekends, and often during hours most folk usually set aside for blessed sleep. The book drives take a lot of effort, but they also help to build a lot of love and cooperation.

It has been amazing to hear from people over seventy years of age who have taken on this project, as well as to hear from children who collect books from friends and relatives in honor of their bar or bat–mitzvahs, grade school graduations, and other events. Book drives are done in commemoration of people who have passed away, and in honor of brit–milahs, britahs, christenings, and birthdays. A majority of the book drives are organized by teachers and librarians with the help of their pupils, fellow colleagues, parents and others in their communities. Book drive organizers have developed resourceful ways to raise funds to cover the costs of mailing the books out to Israel, such as bakesales, performances by and for community children, and collection boxes set along the boxes for dropping off donated books. None of the people involved in organizing book drives receive financial compensation for the good work they do Book drive organizers are rally fine, dedicated people. They have a variety of opinions, political perspectives, and motivations, but they share a concern for the future of our youth and a desire to help foster fluent international communications and peace in our region and tin the world.

About the Flagships and Member Schools: Who Are the Recipients of Books in the B4I Project?

This part of the original article dealt with flagship schools, which are no longer relevant to the way the Project is currently being organized.

Schools which are interested in participating in the "Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project" should contact Myrna Silverberg in Israel or Michael Quint in the US. Information on how to use authentic books in school may be found in the Teachers and Schools section of this website.