Gaza border business owners seek economic boost in Tel Aviv

Business owners attending the fair included olive oil and honey producers, cheese makers, farmers and artists.

Miriam and Eli Sadeh, owners of Mavoch Miriam (photo credit: EYTAN HALON)
Miriam and Eli Sadeh, owners of Mavoch Miriam
(photo credit: EYTAN HALON)
The escalation in violence on the Israel-Gaza border in recent months caught the attention of the world’s media, overwhelmingly drawn to powerful images of bloodshed and terror in fierce clashes along the border fence.
Beyond the camera crews focused on the violence, however, lies a raft of small and medium-size businesses struggling to stay afloat as many Israelis have opted to stay away from Gaza border communities during the usually busy summer period.
Seeking to counter the loss of income suffered during that time, more than 60 business owners from Gaza border communities gathered at Tel Aviv Port this week at the “Otef b’Kef” fair organized by the Economy Ministry. The fair was designed to boost the local economy and encourage residents of central and norther Israel to return to the region as calm is restored.
Miriam and Eli Sadeh, the owners of Mavoch Miriam, a maze-like sensory experience of spices and shrubs in Nir Moshe, filled their stand with aromatic bags of leaves and herbs.
“Despite the calm, people are still not visiting our business,” Miriam told The Jerusalem Post.

Owner of Pub Sderot Hen Vaknin and colleague Eran Ben-Gal (Eytan Halon)
“Residents of central Israel are hesitating to return because they perceive the current situation to be a form of ‘nervous quiet,’” she said, adding that the business she manages with her husband primarily offers guided tours to families, visiting groups and schools.
“Those coming to stay in holiday accommodations in the area would also visit us. The moment that people decide not to holiday in the region, they also don’t come to our business.
“We’re living there, it’s our choice,” said Miriam. “We’re bringing our products to central Israel, so the residents here can enjoy it.”.
Owner of Pub Sderot Hen Vaknin and colleague Eran Ben-Gal / EYTAN HALON
Standing behind a table piled high with micro-brewery beers produced in southern Israel, Hen Vaknin, the owner of Pub Sderot, and his colleague Eran Ben-Gal said their business’s success was primarily dependent on students. The pub, they said, fortunately avoided most loss of income, as the majority of their regular customers were absent during the summer break anyway.
“We can’t bring what we usually serve at the bar. Instead we have brought a range of beers from breweries in the area, from Kiryat Gat, Sderot and Beersheba,” Vaknin told the Post.
Although the rounds of violence have the potential to harm business, Vaknin said, they can also prove to be a unifying force.
“It’s sometimes the opposite, when there’s a round of violence people want to be together. But sometimes you don’t even see a dog walk by the bar.”
Other business owners attending the fair included producers of olive oil and honey, cheese makers, artists and quad-bike tour operators.
“The situation isn’t good for us. We’ve come here to present ourselves to the public,” said Gal Miles from Be’eri Dairy Farm, an award-winning cheese business located approximately seven kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip.
A second fair to support Gaza border community businesses is scheduled for September 26 and 27 in Sderot.