When I lived in Israel, a friend said something to me that stuck. He said that no matter how bad the problems of Israel and Israelis got, they were still our problems. Of course he meant that it was good to have our own nation and to deal with our own issues. The time has come, however, to help Israel with one of its problems: the BDS movement.
When I first started teaching in the US, one of the texts I used for a class had a small article and it was illustrated with actual photos. The signs on some beaches in America stated that no Jews were allowed. There were also some notices in the “want ad” sections of newspapers from many years ago, stipulating that no Jews or Irish need apply (to any of the jobs posted, I imagine).
Well, it did not take long when Jews in America bought the businesses, the beaches, the golf courses and the country clubs from which they were banned. And now, here is my point as it pertains to the BDS movement.
Several of my local supermarkets have two or three entire aisles stocked from bottom to top with Israeli products. That is admirable, but it is not enough. Israel and New Jersey have the New Jersey-Israel Commission to foster economic, scientific, educational and cultural ties with the State of Israel, one of New Jersey’s most important trading partners.
In addition, I also know that it costs to put products on a supermarket shelf. Not every vendor wants to pay what supermarkets demand in the way of slotting fees. In order to combat the BDS movement we need to help all vendors selling Israeli products in New Jersey, or for that matter, anywhere in the US. We need to help them get Israeli products on supermarket shelves.
Any Jewish organization holding a meeting and serving refreshments should be encouraged to purchase Israeli coffees, such as those from Elite. Should cookies or wafers be offered, Osem, Elite and many other Israeli companies offer some very good fare. The supermarkets I mentioned previously import perishables from Israel, Tnuva and Strauss being among them. I would go so far as to encourage our synagogues to purchase as many Israeli products as they can for their social functions.
Israel produces some of the world’s finest honey. It is for a good reason that its nickname is The Land of Milk and Honey. Olive oil, olives, couscous, cereals, cakes, pickles, jams and spreads are but a few of the fine products I see in my supermarkets. I do not see them in any others in the area. The vendors of those products should be encouraged to spread their wonderful Israeli wares to other markets, and the New Jersey-Israel Commission should begin a campaign to advertise those products.
If the European community wishes to divest itself of Israel and its products, its academia, its innovations and its technology, then so be it. Deplorable as it may be, we should be working to encourage our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues to buy Israel.
Tourism in Israel is significant. In years past, over 80,000 Israelis were employed in the tourism industry. Tourism is equated with growth in Israel. We can do something about tourism in Israel, and the answer is really a simple one. Visit. Many of us do, and many more of us can.
We should also encourage the New Jersey-Israel Commission to promote Israeli technology, specifically in the Hi-Tech sector. Israel is among the world leaders in Hi-Tech, and if the European community wishes to divest itself of Israel, and of its Hi-Tech, then so be it. Deplorable as it may be, Canada, the US and other nations will benefit.
Israeli diamonds are conflict free. If the Belgians and Swiss wish to divest themselves of Israeli products, we should encourage Israelis working in the diamond industry to actively seek markets elsewhere. It is encouraging that the US is Israel’s largest customer of diamonds.
I believe that with hard work, the promotion of Israel, its products, technology and tourism, and with the concerted efforts of all of the many Jewish organizations active in the US a difference can be made to offset the negative and deplorable BDS movement.
Israel, a nation of diversity and democracy, a nation of free women and men, free to speak their minds and free to worship in their own fashion, Israel a nation of innovators, industrialists, scientists, artists, writers and so much more is deserving of our support.