With Chanukah fast approaching, you might want to look to the east for the best gifts. Presents from the Holy Land have resonance for both the recipient and for Israel, whose economy could use a little boost from American consumers. Since most people can't just run to Jerusalem for holiday shopping, consider these Web sites as outlets for gift items you can't get anywhere else.
In 1999, David Singer founded his Israel-based internet shop to help out the country's fragile economy. The shop makes biannual gift donations en masse to Israel's children's hospitals and to soldiers guarding the border. A portion of any purchase made with a value of $30 or more goes into gift baskets, which are given to children's hospitals or care packages for the soldiers. The Internet outpost has virtually everything you can think of from souvenirs to kippot to kitchenware. Special Chanukah gifts include dreidels and Chanukiahs made by Jerusalem artist Yair Emanuel. My personal favorite is a pair of Danika open-toed clogs with flowers embroidered on top, made in Kibbutz Naot, in the heart of Israel.
Buy a jar of honey from the actual Land of Milk and Honey. Or create a unique and original gift basket from this site, which includes cookies and pastries, spices and olive oil. And if you spend more than $100, then Linda Katz, owner of the site, will pay all of the shipping charges. Hers is a shop based out of Maryland, dedicated to paying all the overhead costs of importing Israeli goods. The two-year-old Internet company donates 100 percent of its modest profit to charities in Israel. According to Katz, her small staff takes no salaries and they all have other jobs. She said the main goal of her business is to distribute Israeli products in the United States.
This is a good site to look for gifts for the sports fanatic. Israel-shops.com offers soccer jerseys representing Israel; kippot with team logos; winter sport scarves; baseball-style caps; and military T-shirts, sweatshirts and dog tags. The site also offers three lapel pins -- a flag of Israel; a flag of Israel crossed with the American flag; and a blue chai.
A couple years ago, Flori Rosenthal of Tustin's Congregation B'nai Israel visited some family in New England. She was greeted with warm smiles and fragrant roses upon her arrival. When she asked where the beautiful roses came from, she was surprised to learn they came all the way from the Negev Desert in Israel. Since, she has arranged fundraisers for her temple by purchasing the roses in bulk and selling them to congregants and community members. The roses grow in a computerized climate-controlled greenhouse and come in eight varieties. Two types of mixed dozens are also available. The roses are freeze-dried and need hydration upon arrival. Instructions are included with the package. According to Flori, the hydrated roses last up to two weeks. The only catch for these beautiful desert blooms is you have to purchase a minimum of four dozen so they can be sent in bulk. Four-dozen roses cost $70 -- that's only $17.50 per dozen, shipping included. The deadline to order roses for arrival by the start of Chanukah may already have passed by the time this article goes to print, but if you hurry, you may be able to receive your roses before the eighth night.
The Land of Israel Necklace contains five different colors of earth derived from at least five different regions of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nazareth the Sea of Galilee the Jordan River the Dead Sea and others. The necklace was crafted by artisans living in Jerusalem and is distributed by Admat Yisrael (ADMIL) Ltd., a team of American-born former Israel Defense Forces soldiers, according to the site: "Having served in Lebanon, Hebron and Gaza in elite infantry units, we are now more committed to this Land and her People than ever before." The necklace comes on either a silver chain or a leather rope. The latter best complements the beige, brown and red sands in the glass tube. The necklace can also be found on israeliproducts.com.
This site brings beautiful custom-made jewelry found only in boutiques directly to your doorstep. Internationally acclaimed artisans such as Michal Negrin and others fashion breathtaking adornments from precious metals and stones, as well as other materials, inspired in the heart of the Holy Land. The pink, green, blue and gold crystals in Negrin's rings surround a delicate flower set in a ring of brass. The rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces capture light and attention wherever they go. Another favorite set by an unnamed artist is a fiery blue opal set in a sterling silver square -- a bargain at $49.95. While you're at it, why not splurge on the earrings, too? Only $45 more. Oh, wait. We're shopping for others, right?