‘Alte Zachen’ is a Yiddish phrase for ‘old stuff’ – ‘Alte’ meaning old and ‘Zachen’ meaning things or stuff. When I was a child, we used to have a person passing down the street with a horse and a cart yelling ‘alte zachen’. It was a signal for the people to take out their old, used things – clothes, appliances, shoes, you name it. The ‘Alte Zachen’ person would collect them, load them on his cart and haul them to a flea market.

When we arrived in Israel, we found a house full of old stuff. Some of it we stored ourselves 20yrs ago thinking we’ll use it when we return ‘shortly’ from America. Little did we know.

What do you do with piles of old furniture, books, baby stuff, etc?

In Cupertino it used to be a problem. Garbage was a science, not an art. We had a single garbage can we paid for and there was no provision for “extra garbage”. We certainly couldn’t just drop old furniture into the garbage can without risking a fine… It required a special arrangement, and an extra fee.

Not so in Israel. The city we live in (Raanana) allows its residents to take out once a week (on Sunday night) just about anything they want to throw away. A city garbage truck collects all of it on Monday morning – no questions asked.

Excited about the opportunity to rid of “stuff” without constraints, without extra pay, we started hauling old furniture and other things and lay them outside the house on the curb side. It gave us a new sense of freedom…

As we were schlepping these “treasures”, a pick up truck stopped by. A person stepped out and started sifting through the pile we built next to the house. He soon introduced himself as Tsion (Zion) and shared with us that he has a store at the flea market in the city of Tel-Aviv. Every Sunday night he scouts the streets, looking for treasures left on the curb. He collects them and sorts them. Some of the things he hauls to his flea market store, others he donates to charity organziations. A modern day ‘Alte Zachen’ with a pick-up truck instead of a horse and a cart.

Soon enough we invited Tsion to the house, and he offered to help us rid of more old stuff.  We learned a bit about Tsion’s family, his kids, his business and his charitable contribution. We exchanged phones and promised to stay in touch.

I suppose in Cupertino garbage is science, while in Raanana it is art and a social activity…

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