Israel Seen Exclusive – How The Web’s Biggest Judaica Shop Got Started
Back in a time before time, namely 1999, When Ran Toren and Arik Barel were still fresh-eyed, bushy-tailed puppies err, MBA students at Hebrew University, the two enthusiastically set off to join the new dot-com economy. With visions of a new media empire ahead, the two built one of the web’s first Jewish portals, Jewish Web Guide.
Jewish Web Guide was going to be publish content: a section with recipes, another section to ask questions to rabbis, an option to ask someone to place a note in the Kotel etc. As an afterthought, they added a Judaica webstore as a cute side-feature.
And then the dot-com bubble burst. Yours truly lost about 90% of his bar mitzvah gift money, when Nortel shares dropped like a rock. For the nascent Jewish Web Guide, the rapid devaluation of internet stocks meant that JWG’s original plan – to bring in outside funding – lost its viability nearly overnight.
That lead Ran and Arik to focus on the one part of the site that was earning money: the cute add-on they didn’t think too much of initially, Judaica Webstore. Ran remembers their first sale: “We sold a package of three pieces of software, for $87, for kids to learn about mitzvot, published by a company called Torah Scholar. It was very encouraging to see, because some of those close to us saw the dot-com collapse and told us that nothing would come of this venture.”
Since then, the pair have seen steady growth that has lead to their store becoming the biggest judaica store online by a mile. Independent traffic ranking site SimilarWeb shows JudaicaWebstore.com several times bigger than competitors, to say nothing of the 20,000-product catalogue. Ran is of course proud of this achievement, but he wants to emphasize the company is also Zionism in practice. “Rather than move to the center of the country, where it’s easier to find high tech staff, Arik and I made the choice to stay in Jerusalem and build the company here. We want to create jobs in Jerusalem.”
Another way in which the company exemplifies Zionism is that it serves as a lifeline to suppliers durings wars. Many of Judaica Webstore’s traditional suppliers only sell offline, mostly to visiting tourists. When tourism dries up, so does those suppliers’ income.
Nowadays the company’s grown beyond traditional judaica though, and also sells a variety of Israeli products. One category many readers of IsraelSeen will be familiar with is Dead Sea cosmetics. Made famous by AHAVA (LINK), the category now includes growing brands such as Edom. Some of the more popular options include:
AHAVA’S cream helps you get a gentle (not overbaked, orange or underdone) tan, while protecting your skin not just against burning, but also against long-term negative effects of the sun. It also reduces the appearance of wrinkles by flattening them out.
Edom’s skin cream does similar things to moisturize and reduce wrinkles as AHAVA’s cream, however it does not protect from the sun.
We have a special gift for Israel Seen readers: When you add $50 of Edom products to your cart (excluding the promotional item and any bath salts or soaps), get your choice of free foot cream, hand cream or multi-purpose cream free. Just add your choice of the following three products to cart, and enter the code IsraelSeen_FreeCream at the cart page.
The sale is valid until Wednesday August 9th.
Edom Foot Renewal Cream https://www.judaicawebstore.com/-edom-foot-renewal-cream-P118.aspx#a_aid=58777692b945c
And of course we’d be remiss to talk about Dead Sea cosmetics and not talk about mud. AHAVA’s facial mud exfoliator (known as Clear) combines Dead Sea mud with exfoliating agents to delicately peel away some of the dead layers on the surface of your skin and reveal the radiant layers below them.
For those unsure of what to get, there’s always that time-saving standby, the gift card. It says in effect, “I wanted to get you something nice and Jewish, but wasn’t sure you’d like my taste. So here you go, knock yourself out.”
For Israel Seen readers, we’re offering a special discount of 12% off orders over $100, valid until August 9th. The coupon code is: 12-IsraelSeen-100 . To use it, go to “View Cart” first (not straight to checkout), as that is where you enter the discount code (right hand sidebar).