A Supermarket in Israel is Creating Community

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My husband and I both grew up in Arad, and decided to move here when our two sons were born, so we could raise them here. Arad is precious to us, and we are very active in the town, working with other residents to improve the quality of life here.

I established a group in Arad called the Female Founders Group, comprised of mothers who work to solve the city’s social programs. Discussions in the group about the high cost of living led to discussions about opening a cooperative store.

We looked into various frameworks for starting a cooperative, but it was our meetings with The Jewish Agency people that most impressed us and was most aligned with our goals. With their guidance and support, in February of 2016 we opened a branch of their Food Co-operative Network, Tzarchaniyat Ha’Ir (“City Mart”). 

There are many reasons we set up the cooperative. One, the high prices in the supermarkets because of lack of competition and because of the costs of getting products to the periphery.  Two, the desire for our money to go back to the community, rather than into the pockets of tycoons. Three, it is a way to support other local businesses, for example the champignon mushrooms in our store come from a mushroom nursery right here in Arad. Four, it shows that when a community unites, we can create more purchasing power and get better prices. Fifth, we could adapt the store’s products to the needs of Arad. For example, residents here very much want more organic and healthy products, and now we can provide that. And sixth, the Jewish Agency model includes a platform for community events so people have reasons to come to the store other than just shopping.

No one understands how much people in Arad love to volunteer. The city has a municipal volunteer coordinator, because so many people want to volunteer for things. Even people who don’t shop at the store want to volunteer at it. People want their children to come volunteer, in addition to the two hours a month that members of the cooperative are required. Some people come here and sign up to volunteer before they even buy anything.

As soon as we opened, people came in droves to become members. So far, we have 500 member families. That’s around 8-10% of the population of Arad.

We’re still in the initial stages of this project, and we are learning as we go along. We’re fine-tuning the range of products, and are trying to attract institutional customers such as community centers, the municipality, and a local hotel.

So, the store is our way, as mothers and residents of Arad, to help and support our neighbors so they can help themselves, providing better products at better prices, and turning the profits back into the community.


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