Among the things we have missed over the years is the convenience of bulk shopping as well as the availability of inexpensive, quality everyday items. Napkins are expensive and abrasive. Soap, shampoo, even deodorants seem to be much more expensive and not as good as what we were used to in the past.
Some of these things we have adapted to over the years. Others still vex us. Then there are those products that we simply feel as if we cannot do without and continue to bring them in from the U.S. every chance we get.
We have become semi-pro at finding couriers willing to bring anything from a small package (usually packets of Crystal Light powder or maybe some clothing) to a complete suitcase full of various goodies. I have traveled with coat pockets full of batteries, a carry-on bag of textbooks for the school, and bags full of things like frozen meat or American cheese.
A few weeks ago, one local supermarket totally changed the dynamic of our “imports,” as it were, with the introduction of a new line of products on their shelves. It seems like a little thing, but as they introduce more products, we hope that our reliance on schlepping stuff from the U.S. lowers.
This supermarket opened in Bet Shemesh only a year ago. But the chain has made aggressive moves to court value buyers and specifically the chareidi market, the only demographic (other than Americans) who really get the value of bulk buying. They even have a shul in the store for minyanim—fully stocked with sefarim (including a full Shas) for those who want to take a learning break! So it is no surprise that they are now trying to bring new products in and attract new customers.
The first product hit the shelves about three weeks ago. I walked into the supermarket, and at the front of the store was a huge display of Kirkland-brand garbage bags (both kitchen-sized and the large bags). These are the exact same bags you have been buying at Costco for the last 15 years and the exact same bags that I have been stuffing into suitcases for the last 7 years, as we have never bought an Israeli garbage bag to use in the house.
I was stunned to see Kirkland products on sale in Israel. I immediately called Goldie and we calculated that the price of the bags is between $4 and $5 more than in Costco, which is definitely a good value (for Israel). I bought a couple of boxes and posted pictures of them online to my various groups—all of whom expressed excitement at the prospect of getting them locally.
The next week, I bought heavy-duty paper towels and toilet paper (the paper towels are a good value because Israeli brands are simply either flimsy or way too expensive; the toilet paper at the current price is not a good value). As I bought the paper towels, the cashiers and all the Israelis expressed surprise that I would buy such a product and in bulk—it is extremely contrary to their customary buying habits.
Then came the big bags of Splenda along with both the Splenda brand and Kirkland brand boxes of sucralose individual packets. The Splenda items are extremely expensive. But the Kirkland one is the best value (per packet) in Israel.
An article then appeared in the Globes business newspaper specifically about these products. The chain is apparently starting with five items from Kirkland and will roll out additional products over time as the Israeli consumer discovers the better quality of the product and the value of buying in bulk. This is terrific for us; with less room taken up by garbage bags and the like, we now have more room in my suitcase for important stuff (like American cheese and all-beef hot dogs).
And the most beneficial thing of all? With the variety of American products now being sold to the public here, there is now one less excuse for why you won’t make aliyah! v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a gap-year yeshiva opening this year. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.