Go into any household in Israel and you’ll find the exact same pictures of charming landscapes, Disney characters and famous buildings. Some are up on walls for display but most of these images are in pieces and packed in boxes.
Israelis are among the world’s top jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts.
“Everyone does puzzles in Israel,” Yossi Bar-on, the country’s unofficial puzzle guru, tells ISRAEL21c. “There are some 200 puzzles per 100 people in Israel. That’s among the highest in the world per capita.”
There’s something about taking hundreds of pieces and making them into a whole picture that has won over populations around the globe. In Israel, adults and children alike are captivated by this pastime.
Some 1.2 million puzzles are sold in Israel annually, according to Bar-on, CEO of Puzzleland retail chain. By comparison, in the United States, where the population is 44 times that of Israel’s, some three million puzzles are sold yearly according to the Puzzle History website.
In Israel, the peak sales times are just before religious holidays, particularly the autumn high holidays.
“Sales of puzzles go up before the holidays because they make good presents,” says Rami Lavi, CEO of Habos Hakatan, an Israeli toy company that produces 250,000 puzzles a year. “Sales also go up in winter when kids play at home more.”
In 2010, Puzzleland — the biggest seller of all the top brand names of jigsaw puzzles in Israel — sold 2,200 puzzles a day in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This year, Bar-on says he hopes to double that daily figure.
Bar-on relates that Ravensburger, the No. 1 puzzle-maker in the world, “can’t believe how many sales we have in September and October. They are used to peak sales in December [Christmas] and even asked me if Israelis are eating the puzzles!”