Although many can’t travel abroad due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, Christians can have a taste of the Holy Land delivered to them this Christmas season, and at the same time, support struggling Israeli businesses as thousands have closed due to declining tourism.
The quarterly Artza subscription gift boxes provide customers with nine artisanal goods from the Holy Land and the stories behind them as well as provide a source of revenue for Israeli businesses and charities.
The past 20 months have been “brutal” on Israeli small businesses, Itai Schimmel, the founder of Artza, told The Christian Post in a recent interview. Over 40,000 businesses have been forced to close permanently and an additional 20,000-plus have had to close temporarily.
“It has been totally heartbreaking to see more and more storefronts boarded up each morning,” Schimmel described. “Those [are] small businesses that rely so heavily on the tourist industry.”
Borders into Israel have been closed for almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The cities of Bethlehem and Nazareth, which usually host tourists all year round, particularly during the Christmas season, have struggled with “zero source of income.”
“Over 70% of both Bethlehem and Nazareth inhabitants’ businesses rely on tourism. To see the Bethlehem markets empty for a second year in a row is truly heartbreaking,” the Israeli resident stressed.
Artza gift boxes are meant to help local artisans stay afloat. The boxes contain food, crafts, and other items made by Israeli artisans. To date, Artza has helped over 42 small businesses and seven charities. Subscribers have raised over $1.2 million for small businesses.
“Helping small businesses and charities is one of our two core missions at Artza,” Schimmel said. “With every box, we source products from a different region or city in Israel and source the most beautiful hand-crafted gifts, ceramics, foods, spices art and more from the local small businesses and charities that bring that city to life.”
Schimmel told CP that they’ve had business owners “cry with gratitude on to phone ... as we placed our orders,” claiming that the organization has helped provide them with “enough revenue to remain open for a few more months.”
“We feel truly grateful to be able to connect people from across the world to these businesses and charities in Israel,” he said.
“Our other core mission is to bring the stories of the Bible to life, to connect our subscribers to their faith, to the places, stories, characters and Land of the Bible,” he added.
Every box brings another region to subscribers, allowing them to visualize, taste, feel, smell each region. Accompanied with photography and stories, each box teaches the history of each region and alludes to Scripture related to those regions.
“It is a box with meaning. So that next time you read the Bible, you can say, ‘Hey, I know this place. I have experienced it myself.’” Schimmel stated.
Schimmel established the idea for the faith-filled boxes in March 2020 during the early days of the pandemic.
He noticed how small businesses were being affected and how tourists could no longer visit Israel. He wanted to help. He recalls thinking, “How can we keep people connected?”
“We decided we would create a quarterly subscription box that arrived once every three months to your doorstep,” Schimmel maintained. “And each box brings another area of Israel and the Bible to life in a meaningful, immersive and fun way, one which you can share with others, and at the same time, support small local businesses and charities in Israel. It is a journey, the gift that keeps on giving.”