Artisanal Products from Israel, Delivered in a Box

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Emily Berg
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I made Aliyah in 2012 after meeting my now-husband, Ofir, on a volunteer program in northern India. Two years later, during the summer of 2014, he was called to serve in Operation Protective Edge and was gone for 40 days. Alone in my Jaffa apartment, I suddenly had a lot of time to think about my life here - my plans, my purpose and my future.

One day, I received an email from a Jewish organization back home, imploring its readers to go out and buy Israeli products. It simply instructed Canadians to find their nearest retailer and purchase SodaStream, Ahava, Naot and Elite.

When I read this, I thought to myself: “but what about all of the other businesses in Israel - the ones that don’t already have access to the global market?”

Thinking about it more and more, I suddenly noticed a huge disconnect between my own shopping cart (often full of beautiful, artisanal, small-batch, organic, natural, handmade, sustainable items purchased at local markets) and the Israeli products that are sold in mall kiosks and duty-free shops around the world: commercial junk food and mass produced Judaica.

I did some research and found that, apart from a few large suppliers that had managed to get their goods on shelves in North America, most Israeli-made products are not available abroad.

Getting excited, I started to play with the idea of opening a business that could make Israeli products accessible to North American consumers. The idea that thousands of Jewish homes throughout the Diaspora could cook with Israeli olive oil (instead of Greek or Italian, for example) moved me.

I spent one year testing out different models and scouring the country in search of its hidden treasures, most of which are tucked away in little known moshavim or kibbutzim. I followed signs, drove down dirt roads, visited markets, toured farms and factories, and searched online, looking for fine, high-quality products. Turns out, they weren’t so hard to find: Israel, despite its small size, is literally brimming with innovation, creativity, taste and talent.

I discovered cold-pressed olive oil, free range camel milk soap, pomegranate leaf tea, halva-flavored almond butter, jams made from desert fruits, Ethiopian wholegrain sesame tahini, merlot-infused Dead Sea salts, anise-flavored honey, souri olive tapenade, organic date bars, sun dried tomato chimichurri and so much more.

Just as enticing as the products themselves were the people making them: third generation beekeepers from Israel’s first kibbutz, a sustainable family-owned farm in the western Galilee, a Hasidic herbalist from the foothills of Jerusalem, a collective of African refugee women in South Tel Aviv, a vegan cooperative in the Arava …

I knew that in addition to sourcing excellent products, I had to tell the vendors’ stories; that the products and their makers were an inseparable commodity.

And thus, the idea for Blue Box was born. Using the popular subscription box model, we feature one Israeli vendor each month (different farmers, artisans, designers, kibbutzim, NGOs) and ship a selection of their products as well as their “story” written on a postcard. I personally visit each site and curate each box to ensure the highest quality and adherence to ethical standards.

To join our growing community of subscribers, visit www.blueboxisrael.com.

***Giveaway*** Win 3 Months of Blue Box Israel ($132 value)