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First of 40 planned nonprofit co-op stores opens in Sderot

Supermarket chain aims to provide a low-cost shopping alternative for poor communities in north and south

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky shops at the new Tzarchaniyat Ha’Ir (CityMart) food co-op in Sderot, Dec. 21, 2015. (David Shechter for The Jewish Agency for Israel.)
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky shops at the new Tzarchaniyat Ha’Ir (CityMart) food co-op in Sderot, Dec. 21, 2015. (David Shechter for The Jewish Agency for Israel.)

Israel’s first discount supermarket co-op store opened in the beleaguered southern Israeli city of Sderot.

The Tzarchaniyat Ha’Ir, or CityMart, opened on Monday. The chain is a multi-million-dollar initiative of The Jewish Agency, UJA-Federation of New York, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Israel Venture Network and private donors.

A second branch is planned for Arad, a city in the northern Negev Desert, for later this month. The initiative has a goal of opening 10 new stores a year for the next four years.

The co-ops are meant to provide a low-cost shopping alternative for the socioeconomically challenged communities in Israel’s northern and southern periphery. They were inspired by the 2011 “cottage cheese protest” movement in Israel, which saw thousands of people throughout the country living in tents and holding demonstrations, a backlash against skyrocketing consumer goods and housing prices. Cottage cheese, an Israeli staple that had been selling for more than $2 per container, became a symbol of the movement.

CityMart will operate as a nonprofit social venture, with its earnings going toward opening additional branches, lowering prices more, and fostering communal activities and social change.

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