‘Beshutaf’ is a consumer cooperative in Jerusalem city center that operates a store for food and household products, around which it gathers a lively community of young adults with a common agenda of an alternative consumerism, based on the values of democracy, fairness, environment and community.
The ‘Beshutaf’ cooperative was set up by a group of students, inspired by the social protests of the Summer of 2011. We started operating a shop in April 2012 with about 40 members, using the facilities of the Experimental School in the center of Jerusalem. We have since moved to a small store in the Clal Shopping Center and have grown to over 300 active members.
Our store has a wide variety of products: vegetables, bread and milk products, as well as household and personal care products. We aim at fair prices without ‘sales’ to encourage unnecessary consumption. We choose our products and suppliers according to members’ preferences, buying where possible from small and medium sized local businesses as well as environment-friendly products.
The store is open six days a week for 2-6 hours and is run solely by members of the cooperative. Each member is required to volunteer once a month for 3 hours, either during activity hours or working behind the scenes (e.g. coordinating deliveries from suppliers, giving professional services to the coop etc.). Anyone above the age of 18 can join the cooperative by buying a 300NIS participation share. If a member decides to leave, he or she receive their money back with no yield. Owners and customers are one and the same, and therefore, the main value that guides the cooperative is not profit but the interest of our community members. Decisions are made democratically at our meetings, were we do our utmost to respect the diverse values of our members.
Beshutaf, however, is not just a food cooperative. Its participative model has created a community of young adults, who channel their creativity into renewing and improving the hallway outside our store and planning a variety of events: workshops, lectures, cooking contests, swap events and parties, as well as activities in and around the Clal Center bringing some color and life into its empty corridors.
Our move to the store in the "Clal Center" in 2015 has involved a considerable investment, which we raised in the form of loans from members and their families. It also increased our overhead costs. Hence, our main objective for the coming year, supported by our economic plan, is achieving economic sustainability, an aim linked to growing our membership and reaching more diverse target groups. We believe in our model as well as its replicability in other areas of Jerusalem and in other fields and businesses. We are not seeking support for our core economic activities but, rather, for our outreach and events activities, including the retrofitting of the hallway near our store. These activities answer the needs of young adults in Jerusalem’s Center, as well as people of all ages who share our values, for a physical and social space to meet, learn and create new cultural and social initiatives, and they are open to anyone. These also have the added value of helping renew and create ongoing activity in the struggling "Clal Center".
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