Ice cream shop owned by Jew, Arab recognized for innovative partnership

June 22, 2017

Between the city of Nahariya, Israel, and the small town of Rosh Pinna 38.3 miles apart sits Buza, a single boutique ice cream shop, owned by an Jew and an Arab.

Adam Ziv, a Jew from Kibbutz Sasa, has an undying love of ice cream. He opened Buza, meaning ice cream in Arabic, five years ago in the Arab village of Tarshiha, with the help of Aluma restaurant owner Alaa Sweitat, an Arab from Tarshiha.

Since then, the pair opened an additional shop in Junction HaGumma, two in Tel Aviv and an ice cream factory in Kibbutz Sasa.

Adam Ziv, a Jew from Kibbutz Sasa, has an undying love of ice cream. He opened Buza, meaning ice cream in Arabic, five years ago in the Arab village of Tarshiha, with the help of Aluma restaurant owner Alaa Sweitat,

“(At) the beginning people were saying, ‘What are you doing? Why?’” Ziv said. “People thought we were a bit crazy to work together. Just after (we opened), we could see so much positive reaction from the environment.”

Their unusual partnership, which Ziv describes as “one of a kind,” continues to bring attention to their business with countless interviews. One was with a college student involved in the Fourth Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. The student’s story helped the duo win one of the 17 Flourish Prizes and they were invited to attend the forum at June 14–16 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The partners were awarded Goal 16 for Peace and Justice for exemplifying how peace is possible through business.

“The partnership made the Jewish people feel more welcome in Tarshiha because they saw that one business in the center of town is owned by an Arab and a Jew and people felt more safe to go to Tarshiha,” Sweitat said in Hebrew translated by Ziv.

Each of the 17 Flourish Prizes aligning with the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, which are awarded to innovative businesses around the world. A total of 422 stories were submitted for the awards.

Inside the ice cream shop is just as unique as the owners’ partnership with workers coming from Muslim, Christian, Jewish and various other backgrounds. Once a month, the team is required to meet as a group outside of work without Ziv or Sweitat, an idea Ziv came up with upon returning to Israel.

“When I just came back from Europe, I didn’t have any Arab people in my contacts on my cell phone,” he said. “Now (the workers) are friends from different religions. I think it’s a big gift we give to our employees.”

Before Ziv took the risk to open a shop dedicated to make fresh ice cream, he finished his Israeli army service and decided to travel the world.

“The goal of my traveling was to eat as much ice cream as I can and to play music in the street,” he said.

On his journey, he met British author Anthony Smith, an 84-year-old who decided to build a raft and cross the Atlantic Ocean. Ziv helped construct the raft in the Canary Islands, where he also learned how to make ice cream at a local shop he visited often.

“I had this idea going on since I was near a man (who) decided at the age of 84 to make his dream come true and cross the Atlantic on a raft,” Ziv said. “Since I knew how to make ice cream, I made (these) two things come together and I was inspired to make my dream come true and to dare to do something.”

Before meeting Ziv, Sweitat owned Aluma for many years. He was hired at age 17 and began receiving promotions. After becoming restaurant manager, he bought half of the restaurant from its former owners. When the former owners, an elderly Jewish couple, wanted to retire, Sweitat purchased the remainder of the restaurant and became the sole owner.

After Ziv finished an internship at an ice cream shop in Florence, Italy, he knew he wanted to open a shop with an Arab.

“I thought it would be much more interesting if I would do it with an Arab partner in an Arab village,” Ziv said. “My father had this idea, ‘Why not talk with Alaa? He has a restaurant, he’s more or less at your age, he’s doing really, really good things and he cares about quality. He knows to do business, food business.”

Sweitat was on board when Ziv, a dedicated customer of Aluma, pitched the idea. In July 2012, they opened the first boutique ice cream shop focused on serving fresh ice cream.

“I love the idea,” Sweitat said. “I thought it was interesting to make something new. I think Buza is the first premium ice cream that was in an Arab village.”

Not to be confused with America’s custard ice cream, Buza’s ice cream takes after the air-filled gelato from Europe. Their first shop is deeply rooted in the Galilee and takes after the area’s fertile region by using fresh, raw ingredients at their ice cream factory, which distributes the liquid ice cream to Buza shops and other ice cream shops around the area.

“We make the liquid for the ice cream in the factory and then we send the liquid to the shops or our customers,” Ziv said. “Then on the spot they pour it into the ice cream machine (and) they make fresh ice cream.”

Pouring the liquid into the machine is where “the magic happens,” Ziv said.

It chills the liquid to 21.2 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) and breathes air into the product resulting in a creamy dessert.

“When it waits in the freezer it becomes harder and starts to crystalize and you get this small pieces of ice inside and it’s a difference,” Ziv said. “When you try ice cream from the machine it’s like the first time you try fresh bread from the oven. You start to ask yourself, ‘Why did I (eat) ice cream not from a machine before?’”

Five years ago, Ziv and Sweitat said they didn’t know there was a need for an ice cream shop and opened with no competition. Tarshiha was a small point of interest for culinary experiences. The attention from the ice cream shop started bringing journalists and soon after the culinary attractions rapidly expanded in the village.

“(Today) if people want to do a culinary vacation, outside from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, people are especially going to Tarshiha because of culinary reasons to try the ice cream the bakery the restaurant the market place,” Ziv said.

As Buza grows in popularity, the owners still notice some repercussion from customers, like when the shops play Arabic and Hebrew music.

“Some people will say, ‘Why are you playing music in Hebrew? Why are you playing music in Arabic?’” Sweitat said. “This is what we believe in, this is what we decided to do and we are not changing what we decided to do. This is us. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to come. This is part of our character of the place. We play both music.”

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