It's Never Too Late
Successful Businesswomen Achieving Their Dreams in the Western Galilee
By Gary Fayman
Breathtaking, majestic scenery greets you as you’re driving along the Israeli coast. It’s calmingly quiet as you’re overcome with a peaceful Zen. As you enter a nearby town, you stop to take in everything around you: Incredible landscapes, luscious green hills, and friendly people who are eager to greet you. Welcome to Israel’s Western Galilee.
You quickly notice that the area is populated with a diverse array of businesses, many of which are owned and operated by local women; some have been in business all their lives while others started later. These successful women proudly showcase their Israel while proving that it’s never too late for someone to realize and live out their dream.
Shula Giladi, for instance, was a kindergarten teacher for many years who left her profession to pursue her dreams of cooking and singing. She now owns “Shula from Shtula,” serving authentic Kurdish cuisine out of her home located in a village on the northern border of Israel. Shula explains, “It doesn’t matter if you are a woman, where you live, or how old you are… Success depends on one thing – that you have a dream that you want to achieve, and you can achieve that dream in any place, and in any situation…I am successful because I believed that I could be.”
Image: Shula Giladi cooks up a storm
Nurit Poran, a self-described “fan of experiences,” runs a culinary tour company called “The World According to Nurit.” She tells us, “I started my own business seven years ago, said goodbye to my corporate job, and went to do what I always wanted to do: to show people the Israel I knew growing up…When you say Akko, people think about hummus and falafel, but I show them a different side of Akko, a different cuisine, that tells the story of the unique history of this place…In the time of the Coronavirus, so many people are out of work, and instead of bringing the people to the food, I bring the food to the people…We need to think outside the box and work together, and I am so happy to help make that happen.”
Image: Screenshot from Nurit's website
The Managing Director of Western Galilee Now, Michal Shiloah Galnoor, notes that all the organization’s staff are women who come from a diverse range of backgrounds and religions.
“The Western Galilee can be a challenging place to build a career, but we have found that it presents unique opportunities to its residents. Because there are not many job opportunities, a lot of people explore the tourism industry, reinventing themselves by finding what they are good at and turning that into a career. This is one of the many reasons why there are so many small family-run businesses in the region, many of which are run by women. We have begun to see women taking the reins in growing these family businesses, some of whom have lived here their entire lives, while others are looking for an alternative to the crowded center of the country.”
Image: Michal Shiloah Galnoor speaks to visitors at the Western Galilee Now Tourist Information Center
Shiloah Galnoor sees the Western Galilee as a place of empowerment for female business owners: “By being an entrepreneur, these women are empowered to break through the glass ceiling and establish a career that will ultimately create jobs for their families, allowing them to stay in the region. It is part of their heritage, and as their children grow up seeing their mother’s developing their passion, they create something that they can leave to the next generation, allowing them to be able to live and work in the beautiful Western Galilee.”
Despite Shula, Nurit, and Michal’s grit, determination, and optimism, there’s no denying that Israel’s tourism industry, like many other sectors in the country, has been hit hard by the global health crisis. In this spirit, JNF-USA is helping Israeli small business owners to keep their dreams alive during this difficult time through a new home-shopping-network style initiative called Online Mitzvah Market Place: Shop Israeli Goods, where consumers in the U.S. can purchase artisanal Israeli wears from the Galilee and Negev regions. JNF-USA has also launched virtual tours to help out-of-work Israeli tour guides earn an income during this challenging period.
In addition, JNF-USA is focusing on the important role women play in driving the organization forward throughout the month of May and thanks to a special partner, every gift made to JNF-USA during the Women’s Campaign will be matched up to $1 million through May 31, 2020. To donate, click here.
Although the health and economic challenges continue to mount, Israelis are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. As restrictions are slowly lifted, it won’t be business as usual for a long time, however, as long as Israel’s heroic women continue to drive the economy and society forward, better days will surely come.
To support Israel's small businesses in the Negev and Galilee, visit jnf.org/shopping.