The rat race in Rishpon

Just minutes from Herzliya, the moshav of Rishpon has become a shopping and leisure mecca.

rishpon 224 88 (photo credit: Orit Arfa)
rishpon 224 88
(photo credit: Orit Arfa)
The early settlers of Moshav Rishpon, located just north of Herzliya, probably wouldn't have imagined that their farming community would one day turn into an exclusive retail country shopping outlet. The founders, who hailed mostly from Poland and Russia, settled Rishpon to fulfill their Zionist fantasies of working the Land of Israel. In their early years they lived in tents without electricity, under threat of fire from neighboring Arab villages. Today, Israelis flock to Rishpon to realize their post-Zionist fantasies of elegant furniture and designer clothing. The transformation from farming community to exclusive suburb occurred about 10 years ago when Israel's agriculture industry took a hit and farming communities searched for new ways to earn a living. Farmers rented their property to retailers and designers seeking a home for their goods in a relaxing, green setting away from the metropolitan bustle of Tel Aviv but close to the affluent communities of Herzliya and Kfar Shmaryahu. Nestled in between old barns, sheds and small citrus orchards are several well-known and lesser-known designer clothing stores, children's clothing boutiques, furniture galleries and houseware shops that make Rishpon a quiet, country alternative to uptown Tel Aviv. GROWING RISHPON ROOTS A stop at Vered Shamir's flower shop on a Thursday afternoon proved an apt mini-history lesson about Rishpon. Long before this area became a retail mecca, Vered Shamir was selling flowers and herbs to moshav members and residents of outlying cities. She boasts a roster of regular customers that includes diplomats and celebrities, some of whom have been visiting her shop since its opening two decades ago. While Shamir was busy packaging and arranging her goods, her father, Pini Nomberg, greeted customers with his nine-year-old granddaughter in the outdoor herbal garden. Nomberg's parents were among the founders of the moshav, having immigrated from Poland in 1924. "When my wife came to visit me 50 years ago during our courtship, she thought I lived at the end of the world," recalls Nomberg, now in his 70s. "We were farmers. When I went to Tel Aviv, they'd call me a kibbutznik." Given the agricultural breakdown in Israel, he thinks it was necessary for the moshav to recast itself as a shopping nest, and he is grateful for the increased traffic the shift brings to his children. But not everyone feels the same way. A younger Rishpon native who stopped by the shop for a bouquet also couldn't help but reminisce. "When I grew up here, everyone was a farmer," says Adi Porat Tavor, 27, while waiting for her flowers to be arranged. "The atmosphere was amazing. Families bonded, neighbors helped each other." Tavor's father once had 20,000 chickens. And while Rishpon has not abandoned farming completely - there are some 100 farms still active today east of the moshav which grow peaches and persimmons, among other fruits and vegetables - it is no longer the mainstay of most residents. The gentrification of Rishpon will make it difficult for Tavor to afford a home in Rishpon once her family grows, something that makes her wistful for simpler times. (Today, the price of a new home in Rishpon starts at about $700,000.) "I remember that there was an honesty box," says Tavor. "People in Rishpon would take flowers and pay at the door." Newer residents, however, have benefited from the commercial growth of Rishpon. Elon Liberman, 24, has already planted (and pruned) many roots in the moshav through his two-year old bonsai tree shop, Zen Bonsai. The Japanese garden entrance leading to his nursery features a placard explaining the origins of the art of bonsai. Originating in China but perfected in Japan, bonsai is the careful pruning, cutting, and positioning of plants and trees of all kinds to create aesthetic tree miniatures. "In Israel the art is still not fully developed, but it's growing," he says. Liberman first discovered his passion at age 12 when his mother bought him a bonsai look-alike. "I was very excited to try to work at it," he relates. "I took all my mother's plants and tried to cut them to make them look like Bonsai tries." On sale at his nursery, among the few of its kind in Israel, are some hundred trees ranging in price from NIS 80 to NIS 2000. He uses a variety of species as his natural canvas: olive, pomegranate, myrtle, carob, fig and juniper. Some of the trees are truly wondrous; they look like trees caught in a dance with their curved trunks, cascading leaves and pirouetting branches. Much love, technique and patience, says Liberman, is required to achieve the twirling flow of the branches. "From the moment you start designing a tree, it takes about two years, more or less, but with every stage the plant only gets better. You control every detail. It's like a live sculpture that improves with age." Vered Shamir: (09) 958-0914 Zen Bonsai:; 052-646-2203 DRESSING PRINCESSES Danika Schvartz Cohen set out to realize the fairy-tale fantasies of young girls when she opened her children's clothing boutique and gallery, Shubalu. Her immaculately tailored gowns look like the real-life version of those worn by princesses in Disney cartoons, layered with lace and ribbons, yet lined with cotton to ensure comfort. She receives most of her inspiration from her six year-old daughter, who has her own special play room on the premises, which also houses her studio, gallery, and factory. "To design for children you have to know what they want, get into their fantasies," says Shvartz Cohen. "It keeps me young." Her dresses ooze femininity, youth and daintiness, making them a popular choice for flower girls and those with upcoming bat mitzvas. The color pink seems to dominate her gallery, but Schvartz Cohen insists that she does not discriminate against "dark" princesses - she is proud of designing dresses in black, a color she considers just as legitimate for gowns as the lighter, "girlier" ones. If Shubalu creates dresses for princesses going to a ball, then Studio Noa, a few blocks down, creates clothes for princesses who want to rough it on day trip or hike. Studio Noa, named after its founder, Noa Yaar, is designed like a colorful clothing wonderland for girls. Jars of flowery patches and fabric cut-outs line shelves in the back, like candy jars. Her handmade, colorful, sporty cotton and denim knits are adorned with floral patches, colorful ribbons and glittery embroidery. She has created a more mature collection with her signature floral, loose style for women as well. On any given day Noa Yaar can be found in the backroom of her boutique, testing different colored patches on different fabrics. All of the tailoring is done on the premises; a visit to her factory is located in the back of the boutique is a highly recommended treat. Shubalu: (09) 954-4094 Studio Noa: (09) 955-1762; Cafés Ten years ago, two Rishpon natives saw the potential and need for an all-purpose local eatery, and they converted the moshav's former community center into Café Goferman. Nestled within trees and shrubbery, Café Goferman has firmly established itself as the Rishpon neighborhood café and a natural stop for shoppers looking for a bite. Its diverse menu offers a little bit of everything: breakfast, sandwiches, salads, meat and poultry. A much more playful café experience can be had at Café Gan across the street, but it's open only on weekends and holidays. Founded 12 years ago by the Lehan family on their plot of farming land, Café Gan is geared for families with small children. It features a children's playground, a small petting zoo with chickens, ducks, and turkeys and a pottery studio for painting on ceramics and wood. The menu is simple, featuring homemade quiches and sandwiches. Neither cafe is kosher certified. Café Goferman: (09) 955-0555 Café Gan: (09) 958-3281