Holy Land Delivered! Support Local Israeli Businesses with Artza
This year has been unprecedented due to the world pandemic and quarantine forcing families to stay at home rather than boarding planes to explore the world. Four-and-a-half million tourists were expected to visit Israel in 2020 but COVID drastically changed this number. But what if you could get the Holy Land delivered right to your doorstep?
A new subscription box experience follows in the path that Jesus once walked is designed to provide education, delight, and nourishment for the mind, body and soul. It’s called Artza. Each quarter they profile a location and locally sourced goods that represent the best of modern and ancient Israel. Through their relationship with artisans, they promote awareness and provide assistance to the people of Israel. Risen talked with Founder, Dorian Schimmel.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: The travel landscape completely changed in 2020 due to a world pandemic, you saw a need and created a subscription box that would bring The Holy Land to our doorsteps… how did you come up with the idea for Artza?
Dorian Schimmel: When the borders started closing in March, we thought about all the people who would normally come to Israel but couldn’t anymore. In fact, we realized that there are millions of people around the world for whom the Holy Land is such a meaningful part of their faith and identity, but they never get the chance to visit! So we said hey, what if create a way to literally deliver a taste and small piece of the Holy Land to those who can’t visit, and just as importantly, tell the stories of this amazing place and its people, both past and present. And that’s how Artza was born – from a desire to share this place with folks who, especially during COVID, couldn’t come experience it for themselves. And of course, in parallel with that, we saw the small businesses here in Israel that were just absolutely dying from the lack of tourists – and we thought that if we could give them business during this extremely challenging time, what an amazing win-win.
RM: What does the name Artza mean?
DS: Artza is Hebrew for “toward the Land”. Early on in this project, we had to come up with a name. And as we pondered the possibilities, we turned to the Bible for inspiration and Genesis 12:3 in particular, where God famously proclaims about the Jewish people that “I will bless those who bless you.” As we kept reading, we saw that in the very next verses the text recounts that Abraham left his home as the Lord instructed him and ultimately went “artza”, or toward the Land of what is modern day Israel. We read that verse in the Hebrew and knew we had found our name: Artza, or “toward the Land”. Artza captures the experience we hope to bring to our subscribers – a journey “toward the Land” and its blessings. A land with rolling hills and dusty sands. A land that is flowing with milk and honey. A land with rich history and a vibrant future. A land filled with faith and promise. Our mission is to bring people Artza and its blessings, even if they can’t physically travel there.
RM: Every box includes something for the soul, to inspire, to learn, to taste, to share and for the body, how did you come up with wanting to include this six areas?
DS: When deciding what it is that we wanted to include in each Artza box we spoke to hundreds of tourists who have visited Israel, to find out what it is that they look for when they come and visit this Land, and what souvenirs do they bring home as a reminder of their trip and to share and gift with loved ones – and this is how we came up with these six areas. No one leaves Israel without their soul being touched in some way, it is the Land of the Bible, it is where the stories took place and where the words come to life. So we always first include a gift for the Soul. Artza is about sharing the experience and encouraging dialogue, so we include gifts to learn from, that inspire, and that you can share around. And of course we can’t forget the cuisine – everyone LOVES Israeli food so we HAD to include some authentic ingredients and recipes. And lastly, we want to spoil you a little with something for the body, for your own pleasure.
RM: I think it’s fantastic that the items featured are all local and you provide profiles on the Israeli artisans. How do you find them?
DS: We have travelled from the very Northern mountains of Israel to the ends of Israel’s southern desert searching for the most authentic and talented craftsmen. We have spent weeks traveling the country from Nazareth and Jerusalem to the small quaint towns of the Galilee. Walking their old markets, speaking with the locals, and finding the gifts and crafts you won’t find anywhere else. We also partner with different incredible social and charitable organizations for each box. For example, in our Nazareth box we partnered with Susan’s House, and organizations that works with teens at risk by bringing them in from the street and helping them heal and grow through art.
RM: What has been the response from the Israeli artisans that you have collaborated with to curate items for the boxes?
DS: Like in so many places in the world, this is an extremely challenging time in Israel, especially for the small businesses and artisans that depend on tourism to survive. There really hasn’t been tourism in Israel for almost eight months, and it has just devastated these businesses and the families behind them. So when we told our artisans that we wanted to order thousands of items, they were beyond excited. We literally had one vendor we worked with who said that our call was like a “miracle”, as she had just gotten off the phone with the bank earlier that day wondering how she would stay afloat. Beyond the immediate financial support, our artisans really love the chance to share their products with new people all over the world. You have to remember, the people we work with are doing this because they love it – they truly love their craft. And to know that people in America are enjoying the fruit of their labor – it’s really special for them.
RM: The boxes are quarterly. Nazareth, the childhood city of Jesus was the first box and now you are shifting to Bethlehem, just in time for Christmas. Share what we can expect from Jesus’ birthplace box.
DS: Wow do we have an amazing Christmas box! I don’t want to give away the full surprise, but I’ll tease a few items: handmade olive-wood Christmas ornaments from a master craftsman who has been working in Bethlehem for over forty years; amazing ceramics from a family-owned Christian store in Bethlehem; award-winning Israeli chocolate and toffee for the holiday sweet tooth; one-of-a-kind, specially made for Artza holiday table decorations from two amazing women who started their own business just over a year ago; and, maybe what I’m most excited about, for our premium subscribers, we went through one of the largest and oldest photo archives in Israel and sourced amazing – sometimes never before seen – photos of the Holy Land (including Bethlehem, Nazareth, the Galilee and much more) which we’ve turned into postcards for the holiday season.
RM: Will you keep the same four cities each year (Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Galilee), and then each quarter highlight different artisans or is the plan to expand to even more locations?
DS: No, the plan is to keep going! There are so many amazing places in Israel, and as long as we can find amazing artisans to keep working with, we will keep bringing people to new places and telling the story of that place and its people. For example, we are planning a box around the Judean Desert, which is going to be amazing!
RM: What is your hope for families that get The Holy Land delivered through Artza?
DS: When we started this project, I don’t think we ever could have imagined the amazing feedback that we’ve gotten from our members. It’s truly moving to see how much it means to so many around the world to get a taste of the Holy Land and know they are supporting small businesses in Israel at a time like this. For many of our customers, going on this journey with us is truly meaningful and allows them to connect with their faith and the Bible in a new way. And with that in mind, I think what we hope for our members is that, first, they love the products we send, but maybe more importantly, that they feel connected to this amazing place, its people, and their faith.
Artza began sending its first boxes to customers in August. To learn more about this unique new subscription service, visit www.artzabox.com.