(Illustration) Flash 90

The Jewish Agency for Israel on Monday is to launch Tzarchaniyat Ha'Ir ("CityMart"), a new chain of food co-ops to provide groceries nationwide at prices well under the market averages.

This marks the first time a co-op model is being initiated in Israel, and all of the earnings of the co-op branches will go to investing in the local communities and developing the chain of shops.

On Monday the launch will take place in Sderot, located in southwestern Israel. The 200 square meter store in the town opened earlier this month, and a second branch in the southern city of Arad is to open this month.

The project aims to launch ten new branches every year to reach a total of forty over the first few years, in an investment worth tens of millions of shekels.

Together with the Jewish Agency, the Israel Venture Network (IVN) is also supporting the venture, together with contributions by UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and private donors.

"CityMart" is to be run as a social venture, with all income being channeled into opening new branches, lowering prices further, and creating communal activities for local residents at the branches that will be run by local youth.

Monday's launch event is to feature addresses by Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, IVN Vice-Chairman and co-founder of NICE Systems Benny Levin, Mayor of Sderot Alon Davidi, Executive Director of UJA-Federation of New York’s Israel Office Uri Leventer-Roberts, President of Sapir College Dr. Omri Yadlin, and representatives of the Sderot community.