‘Going Out of Business. Closing Up’

I was literally stunned to see the many photos of famous shops across America now posting signs that sadly read “Going out of Business. Closing Up”. Not just small shops but giants who have made history.

Sampling the sad messages from stores that have been in American cities since the 19th century was painful to see.

One famous jewelry store patronized by the wealthy and renowned since 1824 (196 years) has now closed forever. A well-known gallery of men’s and women’s clothing which opened its first store in New York in 1901 and which spread across the country with 23 branches has closed all their shops after 100 years of service to delighted patrons.

One esteemed leather-goods shop which opened in San Francisco, California during the gold rush of the 1840s has posted closing signs in its windows and doors. An end to 160 years of a family business.

Is America closing up? Is America going out of business? There may be a definite answer in 12 more days !

While we in Israel are only “babies” compared to the “giants” of industry and commerce in several major countries, it is a heart-break to read and to learn of the deaths of those giants whose names were renowned across the globe.

When a highly regarded men’s shop, OBG, on Nachlat Binyamin street in Tel-Aviv closed its doors in 1966 I was saddened. Where would I buy my suits? And my wife was equally disturbed when her favorite dress shop, Achayot Englander on Dizengoff went out of business in 1971. But we survived. I continued to buy suits and she continued to buy dresses. But Israel never lost the giants that were in London, Paris and New York.

Our world has changed before our eyes due to a dreaded virus first found in China. It is certainly not a matter of saving shops. It is a matter of saving lives.

We hear speeches from various members of the Knesset, some pro-Likud, some anti- Likud re-assuring us that help is on its way, that a newly-discovered vaccine will be available to all of us in weeks, not months or years.

Fake News has found a foot-hold in our country ever since the autocratic “Me, Myself and I” Netanyahu was re-elected to a position which he has not fulfilled. Service to the public, to the every-day citizens of Israel has not been his first priority.

Ever since his indictment created great anxiety for a future criminal trial with possible imprisonment, Bibi Netanyahu has put the needs of the Israel public to one side while contemplating what he must do to save his aging skin.

It might be appropriate and certainly satisfying to a near majority of Israeli citizens if Netanyahu would place a large sign in the main window of his residence— one which would read “Going out of business. Closing up”.

But it seems that Sara has ordered long drapes to cover all the windows on her Balfour temporary home.

I think of Paris and reminisce of the magnificent shops on the boulevards. I remember my pleasure at shopping (often only window-shopping) at Galleries Lafayette and Aux Printemps, sometimes only looking but not buying.

I remember when I lived in Amsterdam teaching Hebrew in a Jewish school in the city’s lovely Plantage Parklaan.

Shopping in the Jewish-owned department store De Bijenkorf was always a pleasure. It used to be said that the late Queen Wilhelmina frequently shopped in the Amsterdam gem of a store, always greeted by and greeting to Dutch shoppers, proud of their beloved monarch.

De Bijenkorf is so famed that it bears a title bestowed upon it by the Queen… The Royal Bijenkorf. The main store is located on the Dam Square, walking distance to the Dutch Royal Palace.

The shop, now spread out among 12 other large Dutch cities, was opened in 1870 by an Amsterdam Jew, Philip Goudsmit, and the shops remained in Jewish ownership until 1941 when proprietorship was demanded by the occupying Nazis to be transferred to a non-Jew.

Somehow, long-time European shops and galleries have managed to stay open. No “Going out of Business. Closing Up” signs are to be seen. Europe remains open while America slowly closes. Pity !!

Israel’s shopping centers have changed direction some years ago. In place of the small and cozy shops on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem or Dizengoff Street in busy Tel-Aviv, our country has become the home of the kanyonim… the gigantic malls where hundreds of fine shops and good dining restaurants and cafes glow.

While the now soon-to-be-closed New York giant stores are offering discounts of up to 60%, Israeli shoppers can only dream of such bargains.

But the only “Going out of Business. Closing Up Forever” sign I would delight in seeing will be the one posted at the front door of the State’s official residence on Balfour Street.

Keep Jerusalem clean again!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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