By: Hillel Kuttler
Cars and delivery trucks clog the narrow, main street running in front of the home of Yehoshua and Chana Tibor. Such is Tzfat in the tourist-filled summer.
The Tibors love living at the edge of Tzfat’s old city, distinct for its winding paths lined with ancient, stone structures; scores of centuries-old synagogues; and renowned artists’ galleries. The couple, both natives of southern California, made Aliyah from Miami and settled here because the north’s beauty and lifestyle appealed to them.
“I wouldn’t pick any city over Tzfat,” says Chana.
Tzfat’s diversity in Jewish observance attracts them, too. Those living upstairs are Breslov Hasidim, their next-door neighbors are Sepharadim and the Orthodox family across the street likes to “do their own thing,” she explains.
“Everyone sends their kids to each other’s houses. They’re not judgmental. In Tzfat, everyone’s fine and accepting of everyone else. Tzfat also has a large community of people who love Judaism but are not Orthodox,” including, she continues, an American man who identifies with the Reform movement and owns a pub that brews its own beer and features live bands.
“I think it’s important that my daughter [Moussia, 4] is raised in a place where people don’t all have to be the same. I like that she has friends from the different communities. Maybe that’s our being American. People find their own paths to God.”
The couple found their own path to making a living.
Yehoshua has a degree in civil engineering and learned how to be a shochet (ritual slaughterer). Chana became a teacher. Three years ago, they started a company to raise, slaughter, package and distribute organically raised meat. All their meat – beef, turkey, duck and lamb – is Israeli; most beef sold in Israel is imported. That’s why the Tibors named their business Artzenu (our land). They have 1,500 clients across the country, 500 of whom place orders every month.
The venture started by chance. On Facebook one day, Chana wrote that Yehoshua was slaughtering a sheep for a friend. She asked whether anyone wanted to purchase some of the meat. Fifteen people signed up. A business was born.
“We like that we know all our customers,” Yehoshua says. “I drove 700 kilometers [420 miles] yesterday doing deliveries: to Ra’anana, Rosh HaAyin, Modi’in, Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh.”
Those deliveries – 33 total – took 12 hours, and the workday ran a whopping 20 hours. Yehoshua enjoyed passing some of the time in his truck by listening to a radio broadcast of a game of his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers on the MLB package to which he subscribes.
The Tibors say they make a good living, and have a healthy work-life balance. They schedule meetings and deliveries around their personal obligations.
They said they’re also evolving as entrepreneurs, and praise Maof, an agency of the Ministry of Economy and Industry that advises small businesses. The Tibors have taken agency-run courses and brainstorm with Maof-provided business consultants.
“As an Oleh, there are lots of resources available,” many of them “extremely important to understanding the reality of business development in the country,” Yehoshua says.
Running their company has taught the couple to adopt an Israeli mindset. That means knowing that initial business meetings involve extended get-to-know-you sessions over coffee and cake. Being nice but firm – even loud and obnoxious when necessary, they say – also is vital. So is preparing for their counterparts’ vacation- and holiday-related work absences during the Hebrew months of Av, Elul and Tishrei.
It’s a matter, Chana believes, of accepting cultural differences between Israel and the United States – in business, as in life.
“You have to stop fighting it, and embrace it,” she says. “There’s a flow here, and you have to go with it.”
From their home office, Chana handles sales, marketing and customer service. Yehoshua does the slaughtering and delivers the meat.
“Time management is an important part of running a small business. What’s the point of having a family if you can’t see each other? We realized that the only reason to run a small business is if it contributes to your quality of life,” Chana says.
Those benefits include partaking in the north’s attractions: visiting archaeological sites, hiking in national parks, picking berries, sampling the offerings at wineries. The previous Saturday night, they drove to the Golan Heights to watch a meteor shower.
“Nothing’s turned out like we thought it would,” Yehoshua says. Adds Chana: “Life can be nice, even when it’s hard.”
Photo caption: “I wouldn’t pick any city over Tzfat,” says Chana Tibor, shown with husband Yehoshua and daughter Moussia.
Photo credit: Hillel Kuttler