(Jewish News) As a child, Lauren Bottner would tell her parents that when she grew up, she wanted to live in a house within walking distance of a library. When Lauren became a teenager, realizing “her habit” of buying the books she wanted to read was getting too expensive, she would reserve books at the library. Becoming a licensed therapist with a master’s degree, she turned her love of reading into a love of writing and her articles appeared in the Times of Israel, Aish, The Jewish Journal and more. She also had a blog, “Hell in the Hallways.”

It was Lauren Bottner’s passion for reading and writing that helped her parents, Mim and Dr. Mel Bottner of Scottsdale, while on a Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) trip to Israel, decide on the project that would be the most significant way to memorialize their daughter who died in 2014 at the age of 34.

“We saw other projects in Israel that were very meaningful, but when we heard that they were building a community center in this beautiful new area called Halutza in the Negev and that they would love a library — we said perfect,” shared Mim Bottner.

It made sense to the Bottners to build a library in her memory in Israel as they had already created one for their synagogue in Scottsdale, Ahavas Torah. “Lauren’s Library” is open by appointment to the community and includes more than 600 books for adults and children.

The 2,500-square-foot library in Israel will also be named Lauren’s Library and is part of the 40,000-square-foot community center being constructed in Shlomit. In addition to a large selection of books, the library will have reading and lounge areas, computer stations, digital information resources and e-readers. There will also be planned activities to engage the community, including interactive book readings, visiting authors, writing workshops, collaboration with educational facilities and more.

“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art library,” said Mel Bottner. “We have been there many times and spent Shabbos in the community and have become very good friends with the number of people in the community.”

Since children in Israel learn English, the Bottners hope to have an ample supply of English language books available in the library. They joke that whenever they visit in the future, they are planning on one suitcase being filled with books.

Halutza is close to the Egyptian border and Gaza Strip, and has had its share of attacks coming from Gaza. During the latest conflict at the beginning of August, the Bottners received a video from Yedidya Harush, JNF-USA’s liaison in the region, showing the road into the community shut down and he said they were instructed to stay close to the bomb shelter.

Currently, there are 2,500 families residing in the three growing communities that make up Halutza: Naveh, B’nei Netzarim and Shlomit. “Together we believe and together we can achieve,” is Harush’s motto.

The community center will provide a multifunctional space for the people from the surrounding 32 communities in the Eshkol region of southern Israel and house a performing arts auditorium, a hydrotherapy pool, an art and music center, a gym and two dance and martial arts studios.

“My husband’s dream is to get a bookmobile or two that would even take books out to other areas,” said Mim Bottner. “We’ll see. Right now, we’re waiting for a roof.”

The facility broke ground in 2018, but construction was delayed due to COVID-19 and the numerous Israeli elections holding up the approval of government permits. The center is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2023.

When asked what they thought Lauren would think of a library in her name, Mel Bottner said, “She’d be thrilled and embarrassed.” And then he added, “She’d be very proud to share her love of books with anybody and everybody.”

“That’s perfect,” said Mim Bottner. “That’s exactly right.” JN

For more information or to support Lauren’s Library, contact Leila Mikal, Jewish National Fund-USA director, Arizona, at 480-447-8100 x987 or lmikal@jnf.org.

This article was originally posted on Jewish News.

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