The way Elisheva and Gedaliah Blum see it, an existential war has been declared on some 2,500 small, mostly Jewish-owned businesses on the West Bank.
That is why, with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction or BDS Movement seen as a threat to the people of Judea and Samaria, the Blum’s have recently launched No2BDS.org, a website to ostensibly neutralize BDS’s economic impact.
No2BDS is a fundraising effort to help these businesses, either by working with each business to establish a marketing campaign as part of a business plan or by hard-wiring the smaller businesses into the same worldwide business network that Israel’s larger companies use.
The Blums are hardly new to the challenge of fundraising. Indeed, during the 2014 Gaza war, the couple raised $330,000 to buy new gear and other supplies for the very IDF soldiers engaged in tunnel warfare against Hamas.
No2BDS.org has created a CrowdFunding Campaign to raise $220,000. Mr. Blum told the Jewish Link that the campaign has an 18-month goal to help businesses not only develop marketing plans, but also to bring products from these businesses in bulk to worldwide retailers and distributors. The campaign will also enhance the online presence of the businesses, opening them to a world-wide customer base.
Mr. Blum said that ultimately, he and his wife and the businesses they represent want to “reverse the destructive methods of the BDS.”
It was in 2009 that the Blums created Dapei Katom, or www.dkatom.co.il, which translates to “Orange Pages,” the color used to represent those Israelis resettled out of Gaza in 2005. The couple also created Boutique Katom or www.bkatom.co.il. Both websites showcase hundreds of locally made items. Dapei Katom is in Hebrew and, according to Mr. Blum, is more for the local population. Boutique Katom, in English, is more geared to the international community.
The Blums live with their four children in Eli, located between Shiloh and Ariel.
Mrs. Blum grew up in Efrat. Her husband is originally from Twin Rivers, NJ, near Princeton.
“I had no background in Judaism,” he said. “I did go to an Orthodox Hebrew School. But then Birthright Israel came around, and I was on the first-ever Birthright trip. It was a free trip to Israel and something kind of started. I thought about me being an American and not having been affiliated with anything.”
He said the “lightbulb” went off when he started reading words such as “boycott” and “occupation.” He also was repulsed by the description of the Jews who live as his neighbors in the world media.
“They were talking about some of the sweetest people in the world in negative ways,” he said. “Elisheva and I decided to take our local businesses and put them in the spotlight, perchance that there was a silent majority of people who haven’t had their chance yet to actualize their intentions to support Jewish businesses (instead of boycotting them),” he said.
Mr. Blum added that the news read about BDS is mostly focused on the larger Israeli exporters with headquarters not located in Judea and Samaria.
“We want to make sure that we are more relevant,” he said of the smaller businesses, “and that we do export more than one would think. I think the base of our campaign is to bring hundreds of Judea and Samaria businesses who aren’t yet exporting, into that arena.”
“Six years ago, we had enough. Israel was being marginalized and rejected,” said Mr. Blum.
“We decided to action,” continued his wife. “To promote the very businesses BDS was trying to destroy.”
The plan, according to Mr. Blum, is to connect the local businesses with IsraelExporter.com, perhaps Israel’s largest online export internet platform.
“We hope to partner with them (IsraelExporter.com) and plug in these smaller businesses in order to accelerate them into different markets. With exports, we’re looking at everything from honey, jams, cosmetics, wine, olive oil, handbags and much more. Some of these small companies are well known locally, but in the past they tried exporting and it didn’t go well. We want to help them get their products into distribution channels. They could double in size.”
Still, as Mrs. Blum said on the No2BDS website, it’s not just about BDS and realizing worldwide distribution for their clients.
“At the end of the day,” Elisheva said, “it’s not about olive oil, it’s not about wine; it’s about our communities, our families, our right to live in our ancestral homeland.”
By Phil Jacobs