Recently established in the heart of the Shapiro neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv is Pizza People, a business with the conscious goal of creating a new economy, with strong social connections and fair wages. The pizzeria has positioned itself as a neighborhood and community center that is a home for a diverse range of population groups in the city, and that makes a point of preserving its unique atmosphere, accompanied by various content, performances, lectures, and shared events.
“Every person who walks in the door is first of all a person. Not infrequently, addicts and people from a low socioeconomic background also come in, and they won’t ever feel rejected: we always try to treat them with warmth and sympathy, without harming the safe environment we try every day to create in the place. Clearly, other places choose to act differently in such situations. We prefer to treat them to pizza and lemonade, show interest in them, and lend a shoulder,” Asaf Bar Yossef (26), a graduate of the Rabin Pre-Army Leadership Academy and one of seven partners in the business, said of the great challenge of establishing a business in this particular location. “Sometimes they seem not to believe that anyone takes any interest in their story, and when we’re there for them, they find value and importance in their lives. All involved are strengthened in the end.”
Asaf Bar Yossef, Yogev Koenig, Ofir Kudlash, and Roi Haim are four graduates of the Rabin Academy who were discharged from the army at the same time and joined up with the business’s other owners along the way. “We started off in the world of social initiatives, we tried to think of a number of directions for interesting and meaningful projects, until we managed to get to the idea of Bkind. We wanted to build chains of good deeds using formatted cards that can be tracked digitally: we managed to raise funds through a Headstart campaign, and we produced 20 different card styles. Later we also expanded sales, produced lectures on social culture, collectivist culture, and positive trends. At the end of 2017, we won the Yedioth Ahronoth social-minded business competition,” said Bar Yossef of the initiative that came before Pizza People.
Then, however, came the turning point that brought the team to consider a new direction. “At some point we felt we had to get more on target. We wanted to see something standing on the ground, something whose effects we’d be able to see.” “We’d have ‘vision meetings’ into the night, at the end of which we understood that we wanted a physical place, with other partners and a professional and unique statement in the restaurant industry.
“We established the pizzeria as a bright, safe place that brings culture and art to the city, and provides a platform for young talents. It makes us happy to see that people from a low socioeconomic background also decide to come back to us every day, instead of searching for themselves in dubious areas. We’re showing the world how this ought to look: It’s important to us that people feel some bit of hope. We want to set an example, and we hope that when the neighborhood sees how we’re including them, it will make a noticeable difference on the ground: at the end of the day, these are people who are dealing with difficulties that none of us can even imagine.
“We want to let everyone feel at home in this place. We invest a lot so that the place will have the very specific kind of atmosphere that we want, both in terms of music and in terms of the content events. We also host get-togethers of alumni of the various mechinot (pre-military leadership academies), and at the moment we have ideas about how to improve the business, how to make it keep being a warm home, maybe even turn it into a therapeutic place at a later stage.”