As an activist and public speaker, I travel from Israel fairly often. However, whether my trips are for work or family, a main feature of my travels is always shopping.
And so it was, on my first full day in San Antonio, Texas, I had spent a busy morning sharing my perspectives on Israel with students from kindergarten through university-level. Then Natalie, one of the Jewish professionals I connected with, brought me to a nearby mall to find some stores to leave my money at and help overfill my luggage for the way back.
Hoping to find some local shops, or at least not the standard stores I’d find in just any American mall, Natalie steered me into a colorful store called Lush, filled with all sorts of creams and bath bombs and seeming like the perfect place to get some gifts for my daughters.
We were helped right away by a friendly salesperson who guided us through the vast collection of bath luxuries, directing me to what was ‘just right’ for each of my girls.
As we made our way to the checkout, I wondered aloud if there might be a branch of the store in Israel. Natalie jumped right to Google to find out. What she discovered made her take a sharp intake of breath and call my immediate attention to it. For good reason…
Article after article seemed to jump at me off the screen about how ‘Lush’ not only flat-out refused to open a store in Israel, but openly supported anti-Israel measures, and even actively supported extremist anti-Israel groups including terror organizations that deny Israel’s right to exist. I was in total shock.
The woman at the checkout looked back and forth between the two of us trying to ascertain if everything was okay. I tried stalling for time as the saleswoman joined us at the checkout counter with some extra freebies that she was already putting in my bag.
I stood there frozen, feeling a serious dilemma. I typically am not one for knee-jerk reactions to things I see online but there was just SO MUCH, from both the pro-Israel AND even the pro-Palestine camps, and no time to properly research the reality. How could I support a company that seemed to actively work against my country and my people? On the other hand, how do I walk out on these salespeople who have nothing to do with the global circumstances and wouldn’t possibly understand?
I opted to explain my dilemma to the saleswomen, and in so doing, bought myself a few more moments in which to make my decision.
Meanwhile Natalie was quickly scanning the findings on Google to try and get some clarity, and showing me the most relevant entries as she found them. While none of the articles were very new, I’ll admit it was gut wrenching seeing those headlines. I felt that I was truly caught between a rock and a hard place.
The saleswomen tried explaining that there was a difference between the UK parent company and those that are stateside, and that, further, each is a private franchise. They felt terrible. So did I…
I might not buy from that company in the future, but at that moment, to me, it was also about two kind individuals, and not just a seemingly nasty global corporation. The bad feelings that would come from turning my back on those two women, who were nothing but considerate and helpful, and over political considerations that had nothing to do with them personally, weighed heavily for me against the very real dilemma I felt in keeping my own conscience clear by not supporting an anti-Israel company.
Finally I made my decision, and Natalie fully supported my choice. I apologized deeply for the incident, thanked the salespeople graciously for their help…and completed my purchase.