Gift box company working to combat anti-Semitism, educate people about Israel

One of the boxes designed by Artza.
One of the boxes designed by Artza. | Artza/YouTube

An Israeli small business owner fears that hatred against Jews has reached pre-Holocaust levels in many parts of the world as his company continues to work on helping people connect with the land of Israel. 

Itai Schimmel is the founder of Artza, a local subscription box that features local Israeli vendors and artisans, which he started during the COVID-19 pandemic to help small businesses in Israel and connect people to the history and biblical significance of the Holy Land.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Schimmel, who is currently stationed in southern Israel after he was called up for military duty following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that left over 1,200 dead, said that he feels Artza's mission connecting people to Israel is more relevant now than ever. 

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Artza is the Hebrew word that means "towards the land," referring to Israel. According to the Bible, God told Abraham in Genesis 12 to leave his birthplace and head towards the land He had shown him. 

"The reason why we chose that word is because we thought that it captures what we're trying to do, which is to try to give people a taste of what it would be like to come to the land of Israel," the Artza founder said. 

Each Artza gift box contains items from a specific region in Israel, and since the organization's founding, Artza has delivered over 110,000 boxes, according to Schimmel. Artza's team comprises Christians and Jews. The company provides boxes to multiple parts of the United States and has over 7,000 subscribers. Following the Oct. 7 attack, Schimmel said that Artza gained around 500 more subscribers. 

The terror group's assault last month resulted in around 1,200 deaths and the abduction of about 240 people. In response to the attack, Israel declared war against Hamas, a terror group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, and launched attacks in Gaza to eradicate the terrorist group and secure the hostages' freedom.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that over 11,000 have been killed in Gaza since the war began but hasn't differentiated between civilians and hostages. 

Last week, Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day truce in which the terrorist group agreed to free 50 hostages while Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners. The first exchanges began on Friday afternoon and continued over the weekend

Before the Oct. 7 attack, Schimmel had always promoted Artza as an apolitical organization, explaining that the company wanted to focus on "beauty and shared commonalities." However, Schimmel no longer believes it is possible to maintain this stance. 

"Firstly, I feel like I personally and Artza as a company have a responsibility to share the truth about what is happening here," he said. "Whoever has some sort of platform has a responsibility to go out there and share the truth. If you want to call that political, then I guess you can call that political." 

One way that Artza is attempting to educate people about the situation is through its social media pages, including content about the Hamas hostage victims and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Schimmel also revealed that, for the next set of boxes, Artza plans to include materials that tell the story of a wounded soldier and a Christmas box that contains a letter detailing the situation with Hamas.

He stated that attempting to educate people is one of the ways to address what he sees as some of the worst displays of pure anti-Semitism since before the Holocaust. 

In the last two months, protests have erupted worldwide, with some demonstrators chanting "Gas the Jews." Other incidents on college campuses include pro-Palestine protestors chanting "Free Palestine" as Jewish students were studying in a library.

"I've never seen people able to be so freely and proudly anti-Semitic and have a proud stance about their hatred of Jews up until now, which is terrifying," Schimmel said. "And I'm not even sure if that has happened since pre-Holocaust." 

Many are misinformed about Israel, according to Schimmel, which he believes plays a part in why they're protesting against the Jewish State. 

"You're entitled to disagree with Israel; we can discuss that," he said. "But to have that blind you so that you're so full of hate that you celebrate the deaths of innocent people who were massacred? That's completely inexcusable." 

As many international bodies and politicians have called for a ceasefire, Schimmel contends that a ceasefire is "ludicrous" while Hamas is still holding hundreds of people hostage. 

"What's happening now is bigger than just a war between Israel and Hamas," he said. "I think there's a real war of good versus evil, a real war between a dangerous, radical ideology and a more modern, civilized Western ideology." 

Since the land of Israel holds significance for Jews and Christians, Schimmel believes people of both faiths have a duty to protect it from Hamas, as the terror group would limit religious freedom if they took complete control of the area. 

"I think there's a very strong biblical responsibility to stand up and show support for Israel," Schimmel said.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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