Ruchama
By: Nativia Samuelsen

Amidst Israel’s intense war with Hamas, Israeli entrepreneurs are fighting their own battles to sustain businesses during this time of military call-ups and great uncertainty. In the first months of the conflict, hundreds of small business owners sought urgent help to navigate the resulting economic challenges, such as massive evacuations of entire communities and scores of reservists summoned to the frontlines of battle. 

Amid these struggles, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is sponsoring consultations and training workshops for Israeli small businesses owned by women entrepreneurs, to help them navigate and survive these challenging economic times. Their stories stand as powerful reminders of how Christian support can profoundly impact many individuals and families. They also highlight the unwavering resilience and innovation of women entrepreneurs in Israel. 

According to Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry, there are approximately 150,000 women-owned small businesses and microenterprises in Israel, representing well over 11 billion shekels (US$ 3 billion) in annual economic activity. Many of these women are single mothers who started profitable businesses on their own, and in the process overcame barriers in education, culture, age and language. However, many are struggling in the current climate of war and economic upheaval. 

“These women are most vulnerable in times of crisis, but their voices are heard the least. They are the ‘invisible women’ of the war,” said Dan Hermon, development director of the mentoring program the ICEJ is supporting.  

One such female entrepreneur is Elisheva Shok, a mother of five, who found herself grappling with disability after the birth of her third child. Undeterred, and with encouragement from her husband, she stepped into digital marketing, tailoring her services to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Struggling with managing her business during physical rehab, financial strains, and self-doubt about her abilities, Elisheva discovered the mentoring program for small businesses, and it proved transformative.  

With her knowledge of the unique dynamics within the close-knit ultra-religious community, she understands the needs and differences in advertising, compared to mainstream practices. WhatsApp emerged as a pivotal gateway to the haredim for communication and commerce, a market valued at millions of shekels. 

Within this world, her digital ads are garnering between 10,000 to 20,000 views. Through her business ES Digital, Elisheva connects the ultra-Orthodox sector with the wider populace, tailoring advertisements to their style and needs. As a haredi woman, her business is breaking down divides.  

“I never envisioned myself as a business owner, but with my husband’s unwavering support, I summoned the courage to go on this journey,” she said.  

“What would cause a haredi, right-wing woman from a settlement to come to this program and learn together with secular and Arab women? I was so desperate and in such a low place that I was willing to hear anything that would save my business! And this program went above and beyond,” insisted Elisheva. 

As the war stretched into months, she returned for extra consultancy sessions that allowed her to achieve successes she never dreamed of before. 

In Ashkelon, a resilient single mother named Ruchama struggled to maintain her makeup business as many clients fled the city. Her once-thriving enterprise grinded to an abrupt halt, leaving her in dire straits. She was forced to lower prices, in some cases by 80%.   

However, things turned around when she received mentoring from a consultant on the strengths of her business and ways to adapt to the new conditions. Since then, Ruchama’s business has stabilized. She is incredibly resilient and determined despite the prolonged crisis. 

“The program breathed new life into my business,” shared Efrat, from the evacuated northern town of Shlomi. “With each hurdle overcome, I emerge stronger and more resilient.”  

The program’s impact extends far beyond individual businesses. Stabilizing small enterprises safeguards individuals and families from financial distress and unemployment. Moreover, with each business supported, the program contributes to Israel’s overall economy.  

The program provides professional consultants and training workshops and webinars covering financial management and marketing during crises. The advisers and workshops offer personal guidance to quickly revitalize businesses run by women entrepreneurs, preventing their collapse and helping entire families in both the short and long term.  

The ICEJ is committed to helping sustain Israeli businesswomen like Elisheva, Ruhama and Efrat. Thanks to our Christian supporters, we can stand alongside these determined and resourceful entrepreneurs by providing them with vital help and advice. Please give towards these efforts to see Israel through the current war crisis. 
 
Donate today at: give.icej.org/crisis