The Jerusalem Post

The Diary is Filling Up, but the Events are Smaller

- ROnen COhen

“I wear two hats—I’m a farmer with 30 years’ experience, with a farm in Moshav Ohad that grows primarily tomatoes and peppers, and I’m also the owner of ‘Aliba’—‘of the heart’ in Aramaic—an event space in Ofakim that I opened more than seven years ago together with my business partner, Ze’ev Danino. The space stretches over three acres and includes a hall with space for 1,500 people and an option to divide it up, along with a large and beautiful outdoor venue.

I did not start out in the event sector, but it was something that always appealed to me, because I’m very much a people person who enjoys hosting. In terms of the food and the service, I believe that we have brought something new to the south, with unique chef creations and a team that is as profession­al and courteous as it comes.

“Before COVID-19, we employed approximat­ely 200 people a month—waiters, cooks, cleaning and maintenanc­e staff, event managers etc. And then, on 10th March of last year, everything came to a halt. Between then and 29th April of this year we did not host a single event. It was also a difficult time for the farm, partly owing to the uncertaint­y surroundin­g the future and partly because of the policy of importing vegetables from Turkey instead of supporting Israeli agricultur­e.

“After the end of the Counting of the Omer, we managed to hold a few events. But then Operation Guardian of the Walls started, and our farm made headlines after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit the living quarters of my Thai workers, killing two of them and wounding eight, one of whom is still in hospital. We are in the Eshkol Regional Council, which suffered almost a thousand rocket strikes. I want to praise the Embassy of Thailand—their team came to support the workers and ourselves and went above and beyond the call of duty. On the downside, we had to cancel events once more. In the last two weeks, our diary has filled up again, but people are still worried, and that is one of the reasons that the events are smaller. My heart goes out to the young couples who want to start a family and have to keep starting over from scratch every time.”

The writer is the co-owner of the ‘Aliba’ event and conference venue.

Afikim Park in the Negev, Ofakim (near Gilat Junction). Tel: 08-9576095

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