(June 17, 2020 / JNS) Based in the hills of Elkana in Western Samaria, Adir Apple owns an audio-production company that provides services at concerts for some of Israel’s top musical performers.
While his business is just several miles from Tel Aviv, considered by many to be Israel’s cultural center, the reality is that Apple is a world away. The reason for this is that many businesses in Judea and Samaria often draw the attention and ire of BDS groups, the European Union and others, including some in Israel who believe that Jewish-owned companies based in these areas are illegitimate.
In order to stay afloat despite these obstacles, Apple and thousands of other businesses in the region are utilizing an online resource that helps promote their goods and services to local consumers and to the world.
For the past 10 years, the husband-and-wife team of Gedaliah and Elisheva Blum has been operating the “Dapei Katom” or the “Orange Pages” website, which mirrors the famous Yellow Pages business directory in the United States. The site serves the general public, listing thousands of Jewish-owned service, tourism and product-oriented businesses in Judea and Samaria. They also provide quick and inexpensive ecommerce solutions to their clients.
Apple tells JNS that more than 20 percent of his business comes from his listing.
Elisheva told JNS that the platform just underwent a complete relaunch with vastly upgraded technology coming out of the coronavirus lockdown with the goal of “driving more than $50 million in revenue to the small businesses in Judea and Samaria within the next couple of years.” Currently, 3,000 businesses are listed on the site with the goal of doubling that number in next 12 months.
The services offered by the Blums could become that much more vital to local business owners due to a lingering sense of instability or potential violence, as Israel says it might apply sovereignty to some of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria under the guidelines of the Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” Mideast plan after July 1.
‘An all-inclusive platform’
Regardless if the plan succeeds or fails to bring about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors living under the Palestinian Authority, Dapei Katom is moving forward to ensure the viability and livelihood for all of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, whether they live in the so-called consensus areas or in isolated clusters.
At the same time, despite the near total economic shutdown and devastation as a result of the coronavirus, the Blums are optimistic that the upgrade of their platform will help fulfill their mission of transforming Judea and Samaria into a much stronger and self-sustaining economic region.
Ironically, Gedaliah points out to JNS that since the couple are U.S. taxpayers, “we just received a $5,000 stimulus check from the Trump administration because of corona, which we are investing back into the business.”
Elisheva stresses that “on the surface, what it looks like we are doing is just promoting businesses in Judea and Samaria. But in reality, this is an all-inclusive platform we are using to actually create growth.”
Gedaliah elaborates, saying “we have created a foundation, an environment for people who are even thinking about opening a business. They can rely on our infrastructure to have a better chance to succeed. Our mindset, our ethos is that in a sense every business that lists with us is our partner. And they are the ones who are the soldiers on the ground actually building Judea and Samaria.”
Elisheva adds, “People want to know that we will hold their hands and walk them through the process of how to best promote their goods and services. They trust us, and we are there to give them the best tools to succeed.”
But what about the Arab residents of the area who also seek a greater economic future and could have the chance to prosper as part of Trump plan?
That initiative calls for the facilitation of $50 billion in new investments within the P.A.’s economic institutions, empowering them to build for their society.
‘Part of something big’
Avi Zimmerman, founder and president of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is focused on creating economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. He tells JNS that while the U.S. plan hasn’t yet been implemented, “there are lots of opportunities for development.”
He explains that the introduction of the Mideast peace plan has caused a change in attitude within the P.A., which until now has strictly enforced an anti-normalization policy between Arabs, and Israeli businesses in Judea and Samaria.
With these new developments, Zimmerman says Israel should undertake a comprehensive approach in Area “C” in order to create “tech zones” and transportation reforms, in addition to providing other opportunities towards Palestinian economic success.
As for the Blums and their growing business, Gedaliah adds that “there are small-business owners out there on the ground, getting their hands dirty and making a direct impact by building the future of this area. It might not be glamorous and they might not be promoting it on social media, but that’s how we are going to achieve our goals here. This platform is a way for us to get involved and be a part of something big.”
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