Office Manager turned Confectioner in Response to her Husband’s illness
As we enter this large space inside one of the buildings in the in the capital city of Gush Etzion, we smell the delicious aromas of fresh pastries, cinnamon, cocoa and chocolate. This is the new home of “Rachel’s Cookies”, a family business.
Several employees roll the dough, grind nuts, mix them with dates and spices, prepare the fillings and cut the ready cookies into pieces. While packing is done by a machine, almost everything else is done manually. “And you can feel free to taste them” says Uriel Mekhaber, Rachel’s husband and business partner. “The pastries taste different when they are made by hand. The fact that a given set of cookies in one box can come in different sizes, gives you a sense that the cookies are homemade. We like it and will stick to it.”
Rachel and Uri got married in 1998, and became business partners in 2007, soon after Uri was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“He had to keep a very strict diet – no sugar, no gluten, no starch…. I started to cook for him, and invented my ‘energy snacks’ – dates and nuts bars, which later got the brand name of Pinukei Ha-Teva (‘Natures Treats’). Everyone who tried them seemed to like them, and people started to tell me, come on, you need to open your own confectionery bakery… So eventually that’s what I did.”
Rachel’s Cookies working space was first situated in a 10-meter room in Uri’s mother’s apartment in Jerusalem, which they rented from his uncle…
“The fridge, the oven, the worktop – you could reach everything without needing to move, which was quite energy-saving,” Rachel laughs.
Rachel would do the baking during the night, and Uri used to get up at 6 am to go over the cafes and stores nearby with a large bucket of cookies, pleading the owners to try the product. Both Rachel and Uri worked full-time at their primary jobs at that time; Rachel as office manager, and Uri as wine distributor, while also raising a child.
Over the course of the following ten years, they had two more children, Rachel took a course in pastry arts in the Hadassah academic college in Jerusalem, Uri quit his job and became the CEO of their new business, and the family moved from Jerusalem to the community of Har Gilo. Then, finally, in February 2017 they rented a brand-new large space for the bakery in the industrial zone in Efrat.
Uri says now that they can produce more in the new space, they will begin to sell more, because demand is higher than supply.
As David continues to speak, Rachel shows me a video clip featuring an Israeli minister buying her cookies in a store in Jerusalem. The president’s house, they say, orders the cookies, too.
“I just went with the flow,” Rachel says, “and eventually it turned out to be a good strategy… Kids, studies, work, business – I did everything simultaneously. It has been a bit crazy, very tiring – but cool.”