A holiday subscription box by Artza is bringing the Holy Land into the homes of people all over the world who aren't able to visit Israel due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The gift boxes contain food, crafts, and other items made by Israeli artisans from the Holy Land.
Itai Schimmel, the founder of Artza, told The Christian Post that the items "are relevant to the life of Jesus and the Bible, and tell the story of the place, both past and present." Each product comes directly from the labor of Israeli artists and is shipped directly to the customer every three months.
The boxes contain up to nine artisanal goods and tell the stories behind them.
Just in time for the holidays, the Bethlehem birthplace box features products from Nazareth, Jerusalem, Galilee and Bethlehem, with some items featuring depictions of the Nativity. The collection includes a welcome note that details the history of the items, handmade artisan gifts, artwork, and food products.
The boxes also include gifts to share, such as postcards of Holy Land sites with accompanying descriptions, family games, and short tutorials on basic Hebrew phrases.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Schimmel who explains why he chose to create the boxes for Artza customers.
CP: Can you briefly share your faith testimony?
As someone who moved to Israel over 10 years ago, I feel a deep connection to the Land of the Bible and its people. One of the special things about living here is that even every day, seemingly mundane events take on such deeper meaning. I can be riding the train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, look outside the window, and remember that if the hills could talk they would tell incredible stories of the thousands of years of history and faith. I can be driving to the Dead Sea with friends and see sights mentioned in the Bible. It’s truly a blessing to live in this incredible mix of modern and ancient, mundane and spiritual.
CP: Can you share why you chose to create these gift boxes?
In any given year there are about a million Americans who come and visit the Holy Land. For many, it truly is a trip of a lifetime — a chance to walk the Land of the Bible, connect more deeply with their faith, and meet the incredible people who live here.
This year, with COVID, tourism obviously ground to a halt and we saw an opportunity to deliver a small piece of the Holy Land to those who could no longer come visit, along with the millions of Americans across the country for whom the Holy Land is a meaningful part of their faith or identity, but will never be able to make it here for whatever reason.
So that was one part of it — being able to deliver an experience that helps people feel more connected to this place and their own faith. And the second part is that we feel blessed to be able to work with and promote the amazing artisans across the country who rely so heavily on tourism and are really struggling right now. These people love their craft and we are so excited to support them and their small businesses at this challenging time.
CP: How do these boxes follow the footsteps of Jesus?
The whole idea of the Artza journey is to visit places in the Holy Land that are relevant to the life of Jesus and the Bible and to tell the story of the place, both past and present, as well as its people.
Our hope is that when we deliver a Nazareth box, our members get a richer vision of the place that was so foundational to the life of Jesus and the stories of the Bible. Or that when we deliver our Bethlehem box this Christmas, they experience Christmas and imagine the Nativity in a new way.
And next quarter we’ll ascend to Jerusalem, that shining city on a hill, and continue on to the Galilee after that. Our goal with every city is to give a taste of the place and its people while offering some insight into its biblical significance and relevance to one’s faith.
CP: Your boxes are helping sustain Israeli artisans who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the tourism industry has been greatly affected. Will you share more about that?
Sure. You’re right, local businesses and artisans have been absolutely devastated by COVID. Many of the artisans we work with rely overwhelmingly on tourism to support themselves and their families, and tourism has ground to a halt this year. For our first Nazareth box, we literally called one artisan to place an order, and she started crying and recounted that she had literally just gotten off a call with the bank wondering how she would ever meet her obligations and then we placed a large order that gave her breathing room.
Of all the aspects of starting up Artza, one of the most rewarding is being able to support small businesses at this very challenging time. This is only possible because of the support of our customers in America, who are truly a blessing.
CP: What would be the benefit of bringing an Artza box to people's doorstep this holiday season?
I think the benefit of bringing the Holy Land to people’s doorstep this holiday season is twofold: One, you get a unique, amazing gift that you won’t find anywhere else. Our Christmas box is filled with award-winning Israeli chocolate; hand-made salted toffee; hand-carved olive-wood Christmas ornaments from Bethlehem; amazing ceramics; decorations for your holiday table; and so much more.
But maybe just as importantly, I think the benefit is connection — connection to a place of inspiration and faith during this challenging period, and connection to the people who make the goods in our boxes. That’s why we work so hard to tell the amazing stories behind each of the artisans and items in our boxes, and to include amazing photography and content about the cities we are featuring.
I think back to what our master olive wood craftsman Jamil Hosh from Bethlehem had to say when we asked him if he had a holiday message for our members: “I miss all of the American tourists so much,” he said. “They hold such a special place in my heart and I eagerly look forward to welcoming them back to Bethlehem with open arms soon.” By joining Artza this holiday season, you are not only supporting local businesses and the amazing people behind them, but you are also connected to them and their stories.
CP: What do you hope people take from their experience with the box?
I hope that, first of all, people enjoy the goods in the box and are delighted by the quality, attention to detail and uniqueness of each item in the box. We and our artisans work very hard to deliver something our members will love, and we worked hard to reach out to our members and ask them the types of things that they would like to receive. So that’s first — that people are delighted by the products.
Second, I hope people feel that this truly is an experience that it’s more than just delicious treats or beautiful hand-made goods. I hope they feel like they are unboxing a story of a place and a people, past and present. And in doing so, hopefully, people feel more connected to their own faith and this amazing land … and come visit soon!
Christmas boxes can now be ordered at the Artza website.