The Jewish communities of Hudson, Bergen, and Passaic counties are among the staunchest supporters of the State of Israel anywhere in the United States.
So passionate are we in this that, at times, we find it difficult to communicate with one another. Our love for Israel causes each of us to have our own view of what is best for the Jewish state. We are so eager for Israel to survive, and so convinced that our way is the only way, that we shut our ears to those with other views. Too often, we shut our doors to them as well. We have so much in common, and have so many common problems besetting us that cry out for all of us working together toward solutions, but we are unable to get beyond the “Israel problem.”
And yet, if the survival of Israel is as important to us as the constant battles over policy make it seem, how is it that most of us ignore the simplest and surest way of securing the future of the Jewish state? How is it that most of us pass up every opportunity to “buy Israel”?
It is shocking to note that, in the first six months of 2011, for example, Israeli exports to the United States dropped by 20 percent, according to figures released by Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute. Exports drop because sales have dropped. Those sales were never high on the market share scale in the first place. A 20 percent drop, then, is a sure sign that Israeli products do not rank high with consumers.
It is fair to say that there was a time when “made in Israel” was second only to “made in Japan” as a public proclamation of product inferiority. Those days are long gone, however. We recognize that fact in the case of Japanese products, especially in areas we hold so dear, such as automobiles and electronics – yet we hestitate to accept that Israeli products have also come a long way.
They have indeed come a long way, especially in those high-tech areas we depend on nowadays. So many of us use flash drives without giving them a second’s thought; an Israeli company (M-Systems) developed them. Many of us rely on instant messaging to keep in touch with family and friends; an Israeli company (ICQ) pioneered the field. Cell phone technology, ever-faster microchips and computer processors – Israel excels.
Clean energy and “green products” are only beginning to make headway with consumers, but it would not be possible without Israeli technology “under the hood.”
Because they are “under the hood,” however, they also are under our consumer radar. Rather than recognize that Israeli products are among the best around, we apparently persist in the notion that Israel remains a Third-World country with everything that goes with it. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Take Israeli wines, for example. These have come a long way over the years. Israeli wines were always palatable, but only just. In the early days of the state, only a few ever made it to the tables of consumers with sophisticated palates, except perhaps at a Pesach seder. Today, Israeli wines walk away with major international awards, often beating out entries from France, Spain, and other traditional wine-making countries. Unless you drink “kosher wine,” however, you probably have no idea of how good some Israeli wines truly are because they are too often hidden in the kosher aisles.
Then there is tourism to Israel. This is a very direct way to help that country’s economy. Estimates range from between 25 percent and 40 percent of American Jews who have set foot in Israel even just once. Compare this to, say, the Jews of England, 95 percent of whom have been to Israel at least once. Our area is better than the national average, but not by all that much.
We are very big in knowing what is right for Israel and what is not. We are not all that big, however, in practical ways to help Israel. This needs to change.
The Jewish Standard, in cooperation with jdeal.com and several other English-language Jewish weeklies, is sponsoring Buy Israel Week, from Nov. 28 through Dec. 4. During those seven days, retailers across the country will offer consumers discounts on Israeli products through special coupons that will be available for download that week at www.buyisraelweek.com.
The purpose of Buy Israel Week is not to have us buy Israeli products for one week. Rather, it is to make us aware of the wide variety of quality Israeli products that are available week after week.
Let us turn Buy Israel Week into Buy Israel Every Week.