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(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
Hundreds of small-business owners and traders from Sderot and other Gaza Strip periphery communities took advantage of an invitation by the Tel Aviv Municipality to set up stalls in the city's port area on Monday.
The two-day market, held under the banner "Open your heart to traders and artists from Sderot," attracted more than 8,000 Tel Aviv residents, the event's organizers said.
"They deserve this," said Issac Ze'ev, owner of the Hanger 11 complex in which the fair was held.
Ze'ev provided his structure to the traders free of charge, enabling the two-day market to have a venue.
"This isn't an extraordinary act," the media shy property owner said. "We have an obligation to everyone in this country."
Oded Habara, manager of the Tel Aviv Municipality's Community and Youth Department, said Mayor Ron Huldai had launched a wide-ranging project aimed at giving Sderot's residents the feeling "that Tel Aviv is their second home."
"Two years ago, we did this for residents of the North during the Lebanon war," he said. "This is based on the same idea. The traders take home all of the profit, and don't pay a single shekel to the city."
Danny Dan, chairman of Sderot's Small Business Association, said the market had proven that "Tel Aviv isn't a bubble."
"We don't expect that a two-day event will solve our economic problems," he said. "But every shekel we earn here is critical.
"I thank the people of Tel Aviv who came here and bought our goods. Just by coming, they have provided us with support and given us a feeling that we're not alone. All that talk of Tel Aviv being a bubble is untrue, as we now know."
The colorful market had a wide range of goods for sale, including jewelry, candles, cloths and electronics, and even featured a mobile hair salon.
Yogev Trabelsy and Daniel Gadon, two young entrepreneurs from Sderot, manned a stall from which they sold "I love Sderot" T-shirts. They said they were happy about the large quantities of goods they managed to sell over the past couple of days, but the event would ultimately fail to bring Sderot into the limelight in central Israel.
"People here want to help," Trabelsy said, adding that he "saw much sympathy here. But this won't put Sderot in the center of things."
"Tel Aviv is here and Sderot is there. Nothing can change that," Gadon said.
Miri Sarid, a Tel Aviv resident who came to shop at the market, said the experience "warmed my heart. I had tears I my eyes. The residents thanked us from the bottom of their hearts." But, she added, "the event also reinforces my problem with the government, which must stop relying on the goodwill of others." "The people of central Israel care about Sderot," Sarid said, "but this won't bring a solution or give them security."
"Two sweaters for a hundred shekels!" stall owner Aharon Hugi called out to shoppers. "This is your last chance. Today we have to go back to Sderot where we're still being butchered."
"This is like being abroad," he said. "It's a shame we have to go back to our reality."
Meanwhile, Sderot's businesses received another helping hand from the Israel Advertisements Company, which has invited shoppers in Sderot to send their receipts to the company, which will hold a raffle aimed at boosting business in the town. The raffle, which is also open to Sderot locals, includes weekend hotel getaways and gift coupons as prizes.
In recent months, residents of central Israel have arrived in Sderot every Friday to do their shopping in an effort to help the local economy.
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