Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Elul 5764 - August 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Observations: Rumikube -- On a Roll for Decades
by T. Katz

A fabulous game made aliyoh from Rumania fifty years ago. Ephraim Hertzano, who conceived Rumikube, settled in Bat Yam and began to invent a game in his backyard with the help of his family members.

Since then Rumikube has become the most exported game in Israel and the third best-selling game in the world. (The best-selling game is Monopoly.) Every year, some two million sets of Rumikube are sold in over forty countries worldwide. It is manufactured not only in Israel but at licensed factories in India and Brazil as well.

The beauty of the game, explain manufacturers, is its universality and the fact it is not dependent on any language. "The rules are clear and the common language of numbers allows the French to play with the Chinese and the African to play with the Scandinavian." Experts estimate 20 million people around the world play Rumikube.

The game had a slow and cautious start, like a game die cast again and again until it rolls a six. "Abba would manufacture a few sets per week," explains the inventor's son Michah. "Every time he would take six sets in a bag, going from store to store and trying to persuade them to buy. He would not ask the storeowners for money but would say, `If you sell it-- pay, if not--return it to me.' From six sets a week it grew to sixty and to six hundred. That's how the large industry got its start."

Thirty-four years ago, a sophisticated factory in Arad replaced the backyard in Bat Yam. Never heard of the factory? Perhaps because it is a successful factory that does not make the headlines. There are no strikes and it operates three shifts per day.

A total of 150 workers manufacture the product from start to finish--the wood and cardboard boxes, the plastic and the boards are all produced there. Every six seconds a new set comes off the assembly line. "Over 90 percent of production is directed for export," explains Michah Hertzano. "In Israel, we sell only the surplus. The games are exported to North and South America, to Europe, to Australia and to New Zealand."

Tournaments are held in every country where the game is sold and the local champion is sent to the International Rumikube Championships at the company's expense. The first competition was won by a contestant from Japan, the second by a player from Egypt. The Dutch are the most addicted Rumikube players in the world.

And what if the dice get lost? Distributors in every country send the dice for free, except for shipping and handling costs. "We had one case of a 70-year-old Dutch man," says one company representative. "He asked for a die to replace the one he lost. The distributor offered to send the die by mail, but the elderly man insisted on riding his bike 35 kilometers [20 miles] to receive the die that day. Why? He was scheduled to play a game with friends the next day. `I'm not about to miss the event because of one game die,' he explained."


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