Subscription giftboxes from Israel are a meaningful way to support small Israeli businesses producing delicious and beautiful items you won’t find on ecommerce sites.
Itai Schimmel, an Israeli immigrant from the UK, put a new twist on the idea when he founded Artza – Israeli giftboxes designed especially for Christians in the United States.
Each quarterly shipment contains products from seven small businesses and one or two charitable organizations, all from a specific region of significance in Christian Scriptures. Products range from home décor to games, artisanal foods to ceramics.
For example, items have included olivewood sculptures carved by Jamil of Bethlehem, aromatic soaps made by Tereza of Nazareth, Mediterranean Sea Salt Toffee concocted by Oded of Bethlehem, and ceramic plates made by residents with severe disabilities at ADI in the Negev.
Packed inside each giftbox are glossy photo cards sharing the stories of the craftspeople, relevant Bible passages, historical tidbits and recipes using the local ingredients enclosed.
Sindyanna, a fair-trade women’s cooperative in the Galilee, created a carob syrup product especially for Artza, accompanied by a chef’s recipe for carob Christmas cookies.
To the land
“I set up Artza just over two years ago in the heart of the pandemic, because so may Israeli businesses were closing down for lack of tourists and I wanted to support them,” says Schimmel.
In Hebrew, artza means “to the land,” meaning the Holy Land.
“I grew up outside of Israel and I know what it means to have a close connection with the land and not being able to go there. So I created a journey to the land through these boxes,” Schimmel tells ISRAEL21c.
“They’re shipped out every three months with beautiful products from a different region, accompanied by a combination of biblical and present-day content.”
Since its launch, Artza has sent out 10 rounds of shipments and worked with 72 small businesses and nine charities — over 80,000 boxes in total.
“We began with products from Nazareth, and then from Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Galilee, Judean desert, Golan Heights, Jaffa and the Negev desert, as well as Christmas ‘specials’ that have items from a few of these places.”
Virtual trip to Israel
Schimmel is a bit of a serial entrepreneur. He and his brothers founded a coworking company and more recently he was involved in his family’s venture capital fund supporting Israeli startups.
Now he has devoted himself to his one-man business, using subcontractors to help him source products and hiring freelance graphics and web designers to make the packages and the website look beautiful.
“I haven’t slept in two years,” he jokes, “but it’s been incredibly rewarding. I love to see people’s reactions upon opening these boxes. The recipients are very moved by it.”
Indeed, lots of YouTubers have uploaded videos of opening their Artza boxes, and the Artza website shares customer comments.
One woman writes, “The product has become my substitute/virtual trip to Israel and the Holy Land for me and my family, since we probably will never have the opportunity to go there.”
Schimmel acknowledges that Artza is not the only Israeli subscription giftbox service, but “we’re the only one focusing on the Christian connection to Israel. I feel there is so much interest and I’d never seen people providing a tangible connection that can also do good and give back. That’s where I saw our place to be.”
A one-year subscription costs about $350, which includes a fifth box; or about $86 per box. Schimmel says the boxes usually arrive within seven days of shipment.
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