Artza Box founder Itai Schimmel was preoccupied with finding the answer to two questions: How could he create something that would connect Christians to Israel in a meaningful and educational way?
And how could he support small businesses all over Israel that were facing closures due to COVID-related travel restrictions?
His answer was Artza Box, a subscription gift box service that doesn’t merely deliver gifts from Israel, but also forges a relationship between subscribers and the people, history and biblical significance of the land of Israel.
Each gift box focuses on a city or region in Israel, such as the Golan Heights, the Judean desert or Jerusalem and includes items from that city or region. Since their launch, Artza Box has sent 55,000 subscriber gift boxes, covering seven different cities or regions.
Their goal is to include eight or nine distinctive items, so each box contains, according to their website, “something for the soul. Something to inspire. Something to learn. Something to taste. Something to share. Something for the body. Something to cook. Something to cherish.”
But that’s just the beginning.
Each box “takes you on a journey,” according to Schimmel. “We’re not just selling random gifts.”
He said Atrza boxes “tell the stories of the people in the city, connecting to the people in the region. We try to deliver the experience of going to different regions.”
To achieve that, each box includes lots of supplemental written material, including stories, crafts, recipe cards and even relevant Hebrew words and phrases that connect to the items in the box.
Each box includes information about one or two local charities, as well as products created by Jewish, Christians and Muslim artisans. Schimmel explained that sourcing the right local products can take as long as two months and the team is generally working six months ahead of distribution.
Once they identify a vendor with whom they want to work, an unexpected benefit of his business model is that often Artza Box places the largest order most of the vendors have ever had.
“We help them learn to scale their businesses,” he explained.
‘The Artza family’
The gift box itself is the introduction to what Artza is trying to build out-of-the-box, Schimmel explained: Community.
Subscribers become part of what Schimmel called “the Artza family” and, in addition to receiving a gift box every three months, they are invited to participate in an array of online events, including master classes from chefs and artisans, virtual tours, live subscriber events, giveaways and more. All these are included with an Artza subscription.
Their plans for 2022 include adding in-person tours to Israel.
Schimmel said that, just as Artza boxes have been, “bringing Israel to you, now we want to bring you to Israel.”
A taste of Israel
The recipe cards have been among the most popular elements of Artza boxes. Schimmel, whose background is in venture capital, is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for Tasting Israel: A cookbook of food, family & faith.
Artza’s cookbook will include two recipes each from 30 different Israeli chefs, each of whom represents a cuisine and a culture that exists in Israel, including Christians, Muslims and Jews from all over the world. The book will highlight the stories of how the chefs landed in Israel and what they contribute to the world of Israeli cuisine.
“Every one of the 30 chefs has a unique connection to Israel. We are asking, ‘What is Israeli cuisine?’ The cookbook will contain a lot of history and biblical connections,” Schimmel enthused. “It will reflect a beautiful coexistence over food.”
If they reach their fundraising goal, Tasting Israel could be available by October 2022.
'We try to stay apolitical'
Politics has no place in the Artza project, Schimmel stressed.
He described himself as a modern Orthodox Jew who grew up in London with an Israeli mother and an English father. As a child, he would often visit his maternal grandparents and cousins in Israel. Staying connected to Israel was a very important part of his childhood.
That’s what drives his vision for the Artza boxes, the Artza tours and the forthcoming cookbook.
“We try to stay apolitical,” he stressed. “We’re looking for the connection that people have to the land. Our subscribers are pro-Israel. The soul of our business is to serve people who want to connect to Israel. We help them bring the Bible to life in a meaningful way.”
Schimmel uses Christian consultants to make sure their content is culturally sensitive.
Acknowledging that, “most Christians are not going to come to Israel,” Schimmel said his company stands out from other Israeli gift box companies because of their emphasis on all the supplemental materials that connect their subscribers to the city or region each box represents.
“The support we’ve gotten from Christians has been incredible and overwhelming,” Schimmel added. “Our members are staunchly pro-Israel, with such a strong connection. We want to reciprocate that and give back as well.
“We are here to invite you to a real meaningful connection with Israel,” he concluded.