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Some 50 small-to-medium size businesses in the region around the Gaza Strip will receive a welcome boost in the coming months, under an initiative announced Tuesday aimed at getting these firms on-line in an effort to increase their revenues.
Organized by the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's employment service, Tevet, and run in cooperation with MATI, the business development group, the goal is help business owners build Web sites and learn to market their wares via the Internet to potential clients elsewhere in Israel and worldwide.
"We have really suffered from the last eight years of rocket attacks and our income has been reduced by more than 40 percent," Danny Dahan, head of the Businesses Association in Sderot and owner of a large local supermarket, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
"Many people from here have left town and others are too scared to leave their homes. I have gotten to the point where, if I want my business to survive, I need to get creative.
"The internet provides us with a viable solution," he continued. "If we are on-line, then people who don't want to leave their homes can order from us via the Web and we can deliver their goods to them. We can also find clients outside of Sderot, in the center of the country, who want to order from us."
For Gadi Avitan, part owner of the family-run Avitan Textiles in Sderot, the situation is much the same.
"We used to supply work clothes to the factories in the local area here but many of them have now closed down because of the on-going rocket attacks," he told the Post, noting that potential clients from other parts of the country are too scared to visit his warehouse.
"The constant rocket attacks have also slowed down our work pace, it's very hard to run a business when you are under constant fire," continued Avitan, who noted that over the past week-and-a-half, based on directives from the Home Front Command, the textile factory has been closed.
Over the past eight years, said Avitan, the company has struggled to break even, let alone make a profit.
"There have been times over recent years when we were not able to even cover our expenses," he continued. "But my father, Meir, who started this business over 40 years ago, is very stubborn and determined. He would never agree to close the company for good."
Regarding the new virtual venture, Avitan said: "It's a bridge for us to reach clients in the rest of the country and all over the world."
He said that he is working on cataloging his stock and by next week would start working on a preliminary version of the Web site.
"These kinds of projects really give the business community on the front line hope for the future, as well as a practical way of creating more sources of revenue," commented Dahan. "It really helps to boost morale here and keeps us going strong.
"My supermarket has been open for 40 years, it's a family-run business and we are determined not to leave."
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