In Haifa, new coworking space for women shows that it takes a Village 

The Village, a unique communal space, offers women a chance to connect, network, build community — and get out of the house

HAIFA, Israel — When Ann Levy-Antar tested the waters for her dream of creating a women-only coworking space, she was blown away by the response in an online female community. Some 400 women contacted her, enthusing over the idea and eager to get involved. “It was horrifying,” Levy-Antar laughs, during a recent interview at The Village, located in a renovated old stone building in the heart of the Talpiot market in the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa.

“It was moving really fast,” Levy-Antar explains, noting that she had intended to develop the project at a slower pace, using the first donation she had received from Brazilian angel investors. “It was exciting but it was also not what I had planned. I was hoping to use the donation I had for another year and then slowly build this and find partners and find a place … and then everything happened in two weeks.”

The message Levy-Antar posted on Facebook read: “Hi friends, nice to meet you. We are the Village – women’s space in Haifa. There have been so many posts here on searching for communal spaces for work, creative partnerships and business networking, community and social action, so here, we have arrived! The Village is a space for women. For work, development, coffee, for thinking, initiative, for a glass of wine and a good lecture, basically, for everything. Just tell us what you need. Really. Because we all need a space, now more than ever.”

In early March, The Village, which Levy-Antar co-founded together with Carmit Holzman and Odelia Rosenfeld, first opened its doors for people to visit. Over the following two weeks, some 80 women from all over northern Israel popped by. “And something about the space and the way it looks, and the way it feels, kind of just clicked. And there were just women sitting here, and we didn’t say anything, but they started talking about what they do and the networking just started happening naturally. So that was amazing. It was a great first step,” Levy-Antar says.

Levy-Antar had herself instantly fallen in love with the apartment, which is owned by an artist who told her that she had envisioned it as a space for women. The landlord was so moved when she came to visit The Village that she donated to the development of their app, through which members can book slots and workshops. 

The Village’s home is a unique venue for a coworking space. The apartment, built in the 1930s, is framed by large arched floor-to-ceiling windows; the floors feature Arabesque black-and-white-tiled floors, bright and colorful rugs; and decorative cushions adorn the two couches in the large lounge area. Artwork by local artists that adorn the walls and a “design station” unit are for sale, as are additional items such as water bottles, thermal cups, jewelry and tote bags that can be perused as part of collaborations with NGOs who work with at-risk women. There is a small balcony looking out to the port, and an office space offers a large communal table for working, as well as two individual tables. Next to the office space is a studio room with yoga mats rolled up in a basket where various workshops and lectures are held, and an outdoor patio is used for events. In the bathroom, female sanitary products are available in the cubicles.

The Village (fotoatelie)

Levy-Antar describes The Village as an “impact members club — a community-based initiative to promote leadership of women in all aspects of life.” 

Any woman can join the club and membership costs 150 NIS ($40) a month, which gives unlimited access to the coworking space and access to a variety of workshops (which costs 30-50 NIS [$8-$13) and community events (which are free).

Ksenia Zinder, a new immigrant to Israel from Russia and a resident of the Hadar neighborhood in Haifa, was working at The Village for the first time on the day that JI visited. Zinder works remotely as a data analyst for an American company and missed the company of co-workers. “I just can’t stand sitting at home all the time. I just think COVID was enough. So I was trying to find a place where I can sometimes go out and see other people … and also it’s nice here.” Zinder heard about The Village via social media.

She said most of the people she socializes with are other new immigrants from Russia, and she saw The Village as a good way to make new connections and expand her social and professional circles. “I think that being a member of a female club is a good way to try to have some more connections because it’s much more welcoming than just, I don’t know, going into a bar.”

Mary Jeries, an Arab-Israeli resident of Haifa’s Ramat Hadar neighborhood and a women’s life coach, was among the first to join The Village. Jeries told JI she signed up because “it really connected everything that I wanted for myself as a Haifa woman. The place itself is charming and I really connected to the fact that it is a women’s space and provides female entrepreneurs with a pleasant space to work from, together with all the programs that they have and plan to have in the future — and it connects between women.” 

“Since I joined, when The Village opened, amazing things are happening,” Jeries said. Next month she will run a conference for self-employed women at The Village. She notes that The Village has facilitated connections between herself and other members and women who have visited the space and believes this will bear fruit to future collaborations both with The Village itself and beyond.  

On Tuesdays, the apartment is reserved for companies to rent for off-site days, work sessions, company events, meetings and lectures, which help compensate for the low fee for members and contributes toward scholarships for women from the neighborhood who can’t afford the membership fee and are connected to The Village via a social worker.

Ann Levy-Antar (second from right) talks to women at the Village (fotoatelie)

Women who have entrepreneurial ideas but don’t have the resources to make it happen can benefit from being part of The Village community, where other women provide support and can share creative ideas, Levy-Antar explained. “There’s something about belonging to a community that is focused on this; I think that helps women to kind of identify and believe in their potential,” she said.

Levy-Antar herself is a social worker who has dedicated her career to working with marginalized and at-risk women. After moving from Jerusalem to Haifa six years ago, after her first son was born, Levy-Antar felt inspired to contribute to the community in the city, which she embraces for its diversity. “And I thought I could bring the values that I loved from where I worked with marginalized women into a space that was not only for at-risk women, but for women from all walks of life.” 

Levy-Antar says The Village members come from different parts of Haifa as well as other areas and are of different ages and different cultural backgrounds. “So the connections that are made here are very unique. Because for a 60-year-old woman from Denia [a wealthy neighborhood on the Carmel Mountain], to sit with a 25-year-old woman from this neighborhood [which is both physically lower in the city and of lower socioeconomic status], it wouldn’t have happened anywhere else,” Levy-Antar notes. 

For Levy-Antar it felt natural that The Village should offer a space for physical activities such as yoga and pilates, to provide women with an opportunity to reenergize. In addition, she said, “I feel like we’re always carrying a certain bag of shame with us. Because you know, you haven’t done enough for yourself or for your family or for your work. And we said you can get your V’s in this one space. So you’ve done your work, and you did your sports and can go home free of these heavy weights that society puts on us.”

The Village also hosts various events — recent events have included a designer festival and an art sale. Last week, women gathered there for their first movie night together —  a screening of the iconic ’90s film “Thelma and Louise.”

Inclusion and multiculturalism are two key values of The Village.

A new project, the Women Mentoring Group, involves a yearlong course for a socioeconomically diverse group of women focused on financial literacy, such as budgeting, saving, investing and managing debt, and professional development.

Another upcoming project, Artists For Voice, seeks to connect local female artists to groups of marginalized women “to create a feminine narrative of life experiences and display it in city centers as a way to advocate the unique struggles and challenges of underprivileged women in times of collective trauma.” 

Levy-Antar herself has, particularly since Oct. 7, taken solace in the joint Arab-Jewish community she is part of in Haifa — both of her sons go to bilingual Arab-Hebrew “Hand in Hand” schools and the parents have formed a community. “Ever since the war started, I feel like everyone is really trying to spend as much time together as possible. We would meet like three times a week, which we didn’t used to do before the war, and kind of, even if no one knows what to say, just being together is a great comfort.”

Levy-Antar envisions this type of community for The Village. “In a lot of circles, and a lot of spaces, we avoid talking about the differences and the struggles inside this society, or if we do talk about it, it gets very violent and very, you know — the hatred,” Levy-Antar explained. “And we want to offer a space where we can talk about hard things but we can do it in a feminine way, which allows you to feel whatever you feel and the person next to you, that feels the opposite way and you’re still in their favor, you’re still on their side,” Levy-Antar continued. 

The Village seeks to “form a sisterhood — that doesn’t have to be the same, just has to be inclusive and allow us to get to know everyone who lives around us.”

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