Checking the ‘orange pages’

Not taking the BDS movement lying down, residents living over the Green Line have banded together to support their local businesses.

GUELA TWERSKY sits in her home (photo credit: COURTESY DAPEI KATOM)
GUELA TWERSKY sits in her home
(photo credit: COURTESY DAPEI KATOM)
The walls of Geula Twersky’s Neveh Daniel home are decorated with her artwork, or as Twersky refers to the paintings, “expres- sions of my neshama [soul] and of my name Geula [redemption].” This mother of 10 and recent grandmother, who made aliya from New York with her family seven years ago, says she has been a painter her entire life. The themes in her vivid and lifelike work include Torah, prayer, aliya, the Land of Israel and more.
While Twersky has had some success selling her work both in Israel and abroad, she, along with an entire population of Jewish artisans and small business owners in Judea and Samaria, have had to overcome a difficult economic environment to make a living for their families.
What started as domestic boycotts against the “settlements” has evolved into an entire international movement of product labeling (as in Europe), and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions targeting Israeli companies and service providers who operate or conduct business outside the 1949 armistice lines.
In order to combat the boycotts, in 2009 Gedaliah and Elisheva Blum, a husband-and-wife team from Eli, started the first all-inclusive online Hebrew local business directory in Judea and Samaria, called Dapei Katom, or Orange Pages – a color synonymous with the struggle to save the Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Samaria.
Similar to a Yellow Pages directory, Dapei Katom is a tool now being utilized by over 2,000 small business owners to showcase their products and services, with the goal of increasing revenue.
From local plumbers to catering services to wedding bands, Gedaliah says the site not only assists in making products and services accessible to potential customers, but is a springboard towards “job growth and creating economic prosperity, thus making Judea and Samaria a desirable place for people to want to move there – similar to what the government is trying to do in encouraging Israelis to invest and live in the Galilee in the North and the Negev in the South.”
Dapei Katom also serves as a community bulletin board, promoting local events, listing available real estate as well as secondhand items, and more.
Several months ago, the Blums launched an additional site in English to go along with Dapei Katom, called Boutique Katom, an online store showcasing more than 500 original pieces of art, handmade jewelry, handbags, cosmetics and other gift items, created by residents of Judea and Samaria, to facilitate sales and open up markets internationally.
Gedaliah explains that “the revenue generated from all of the items purchased on Boutique Katom will be channeled directly back into Dapei Katom. What this means is that we will have more capital to promote and market the website. In addition, we hope to get small companies to a place where we can begin to assist them in taking their products to international retailers. This is [a direct] push against the boycotts which people are calling for now.”
Sitting in Twersky’s living room and looking through a portfolio of her artwork, Gedaliah and the artist discuss which prints of her paintings have already been sold via the website. Twersky says she is currently working on designing an artistic book featuring special prayers that are recited on the Israeli national holidays like Independence Day. “People want to relate to these special days, more religiously and less politically,” she says. The plan is for the book to be featured on the Boutique Katom site once it’s completed.
Another artist whose paintings are highlighted on the site is Kiryat Arba resident Baruch Nachshon. As in Twersky’s home, Nachshon’s walls are also covered with his art, some with similar themes but expressed in a very different style.
His work includes abstract and colorful groupings of symbols related to hai (life) and the name of God; his paintings also feature Jerusalem, the Holy Temple, and other religious items used in Jewish ritual services. Another theme is nature in the Land of Israel, inspired by Nachshon’s days as a shepherd in the North.
Whether through Dapei Katom or Boutique Katom, the Blums admittedly do not purport to have recreated the wheel in what is best known as a “buy local” campaign.
“However,” says Gedaliah, “what makes this initiative much different than the typical buy local campaign is the political environment which surrounds it. The fact that there are people from Israel and throughout the world who not only make it a point to boycott these communities, but to also campaign to increase these boycotts, makes it a tougher mountain to climb.”
“When we began,” says Elisheva, “we knew we were up against a giant. The boycott movements had a loud voice and foreign funding to support them.
“There was some concern that we would actually be creating a useful tool for our adversaries [as they would more easily be able to identify which businesses to boycott], but we continued anyway. What we realized after all this time is that the loud voice for the boycotts here in Israel is a minority voice. The fact is that there are many more people who support our Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, but did not yet have a way to actualize this support.
“With Dapei Katom and our extensive business listings, now they do,” she says.
Gedaliah adds how ironic it is that “the Europeans who are trying to starve the Jews of Judea and Samaria financially are actually hurting not only Israeli businesses, whose headquarters are in the Center but who maintain factories in Judea and Samaria, but also the local Arabs who are employed in places like the Barkan Industrial Park.”
While Israeli global companies based in the Center are affected, Gedaliah reiterates, “it’s our job as the real target [in Judea and Samaria] not to sit back and watch it happen. We need to be prepared to act against it.”
Explaining how he and wife usually work 15-hour days running their business, Gedaliah concludes, “What better way to show support for those living in the Jewish Bible Belt than buying a piece of art and putting it up in your home?” “It’s the [successful] results we are getting which get us out of bed every morning.”