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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Big Bad Corporations? Bring it on.

IMG_00004232

It feels like the sort of thing I should have strong feelings about, like “Get your #$!% hands off my Israel!”  But I don’t.  Somehow, I’m happy as anything that Ikea is here, and would be thrilled to see more big chains like it moving in.

WalMart?  Maybe not.  Not much chance of that happening, but I do wonder where we draw the line.

I’m no economist, but as I understand it, there are a few arguments against big companies coming in and staking a claim here or in any small, threatened economy:

  • Destroys local industry.   I hope you’re not talking about furniture manufacturing here.  There IS no furniture manufacturing here, or hardly any.  Nothing to make it out of.(palm trees?)
  • Crushes local retailers.  I don’t think that’s a big risk in this country.  It costs a lot of money to bring stuff in, even if you’re Ikea.  I priced out some of the furniture at Ikea before we went… and we bought our shelves and bedroom aronot (closets) at our local HomeCenter instead.
  • Disrespects local culture. If you’ve ever been to Kiryat Ata, you’ll know it’s a factory town without much culture to begin with.  I think Ikea probably improves the ambience.  Plus, they sell 5-shekel falafel at the hot dog stand by the exit – something I don’t think they offer at their Canadian, U.S. or Swedish stores.
  • Channels money out of the local economy.  True, but if I buy a shirt at an Israeli chain, much of the money for the shirt is probably going to manufacturers in China or abroad anyway. 

True, buying “kacholavan” should be a priority (although do I really want more and more and more plastic products manufactured half an hour away in the Galil where our veggies are grown???).  But it’s not always possible.

Here are my arguments FOR our local Ikea store, in Kiryat Ata:

  • It’s an island of sanity for olim.  Seriously, nice to walk around in a store this BIG, with such a huge selection.  The entire selection; everything I could have bought in my Toronto Ikea store is here.  Even after seven months (not a long time!), life in Israel is a nonstop daily assault of foreignness.  A little touch of familiarity… not a problem.
  • They’re supporting Torah study.  Really!  I just found this article while looking for pictures I could use with my post.  It says they’re looking to hire guys in kollel to work in their off hours – a win-win (+win for klal Yisrael!).
  • IMG_00004238Convenience isn’t a sin.  Sure, our puritanical nature tells us that if something is too easy or too fun, it shouldn’t be allowed.  But the truth is that if Israeli stores don’t know how to create a great shopping experience – or don’t care whether they do or not, perhaps they will lose out to the competition.  Thanks, Darwin!

It’s funny.  I’ve received two very similar objections to posts and emails lamenting the incursion of “American” culture into Israel:  once when I ate at McDonald’s (“I’d rather have falafel!”) and once when I shopped at Ikea.

Both were from non-Jewish relatives, one of whom hasn’t even been here, let alone lived here.  They’re entitled to opinions, but you’ve got to weigh that against the feelings of people who live here. 

Judging by the numbers of Israelis in the Ikea store the day we went – many are quite strongly pro-incursion.

IMG_00004242Now, you may be wondering… did I buy anything???

Nope. 

Well, hardly anything.

(tee hee)

Two herb plants for 6 shekels each.  Some drinking glasses for Pesach.  A cute toy for Elisheva in the bargain-basement damaged-goods “metzion” section near the exit.

IMG_00004241 Oh, and we ate in the restaurant!  All-kosher, with two sections, one a dairy espresso bar and one a meat/fish family cafeteria-style restaurant.  Not amazing prices, but very tasty food.

They do serve tasty meatballs, but they don't call them Swedish, and, disappointingly, don’t offer lingonberry jam on the side – even though it is depicted on their website.

Ikea has now become Elisheva's top  "thing to do in Haifa, " displacing the Bahai gardens, which she didn't really like anyway.

Maybe somebody should make a rule that these big conglomerates should ONLY be allowed to expand outside of North America in the future. 

That way, North Americans can be self-righteously rid of them for good… while those of us in the rest of the world can be grateful and thrilled that somebody is paying attention to us, and giving us the chance at a fun shopping trip even if we don’t end up buying a thing.

The new Ikea store (they pronounce it “ee-kay-ah”) in Kiryat Ata is only about 10 minutes away by a very convenient city bus, by the way.  Doesn’t mean I’ll be there all the time, but it feels nice to be at the centre of things for a change. 

Next stop… and no, I’m not joking.  Pizza Hut in the Malha Mall in Jerusalem, tomorrow.  I have to be in the area on an errand – it’s not a special trip, I promise!!!

Maybe someday I’ll get this junk food / junk culture thing out of my system… until then, bring on the Big Bad Corporations!

Okay, I will open it up, since I know mine isn’t the only opinion… What do you think of all these foreign interlopers?  Are they Good for Israel???  Leave a comment and let me know!

3 comments:

  1. Totally good for Israel. I mean, if an Israeli gets a good idea that goes super-international like Ingvar Kamprad did, more power to him/her. But in the meantime, Ikea appeals to Israeli culture in 3 major ways: 1) The design is mostly clean and modern, though they have some more traditional pieces, too. 2) Israelis don't like to be "friars" so I think they appreciate the idea of having to get it from the warehouse yourself and build it yourself in exchange for the low price. And 3) the price! I'd say you can't beat it, but you can...but still. And the shopping experience is so much fun.

    There is a certain amount of furniture manufacturing in Israel - Shamrat Hazoreh...I think Betili has some made-in-Israel stuff...I'm sure there are others. Those are just the two I know. They probably import materials but they do build the furniture here.

    But yes, having big international companies here is very good. More people buying stuff means more people get jobs and more money flows through the economy. It's allllll good.

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  2. I just got here (olah chasha) but maybe the EEKEA experience will rub off on the customer service trainers (are there any?).
    Israeli's keep telling me they "work hard" and want to go to the USA (presumably where they won't have to work "hard"?).
    Remember that Ikea in Scandinavia is like Wal-Mart in the US.

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  3. @michal, also Kibbutz Lavi manufactures shul furniture which is exported all over the world. I'm sure there are other manufacturers like that. But they may be specialized and most likely expensive.
    @anon, you're right, of course, except that IKEA can't put a convenience store out of business, while WalMart most certainly can.

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