Shopkeepers across Israel were happy on Nov. 8. After several weeks of waiting, the government eased coronavirus restrictions, enabling them to reopen. Still, the government decided that stores could let in up to only four customers at a time. As a result, people queued for many hours waiting to enter shops.
The first ones to benefit from the easing of restrictions were the big international fashion chains, but the smaller shops were also delighted. Shops selling Israeli-made fashion items were hit hard by the coronavirus-induced crisis. In fact, already before this last crisis, Israel’s fashion industry was struggling. Many of the fashion entrepreneurs warn now that the whole industry could drown.
Nitzan Meir is an independent entrepreneur who sells Israeli fashion accessories. He has also been involved for several years with the Movement to Encourage Israeli Fashion. Right now, he is selling hand-made original face masks.
Israeli fashion manufacturers and merchants have engaged in the battle since 2015, when two laws were introduced. “The first one was the cancellation of the value-added tax for online purchases under $75 for all non-Israeli shopping sites. The second legislation scraped up protection taxes on textile products imported from China. These two laws created an absurd situation, where the Israeli government gave preference to Chinese producers over Israeli fashion designers who were working with Palestinian tailor shops,” Meir told Al-Monitor.
Israeli fashion designers and shopkeepers got even angrier after the first coronavirus lockdown in March. “The Movement to Encourage Israeli Fashion was astonished to learn about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to offer the big fashion chains bonuses of 6 billion shekels [$1.8 billion] over the closure of shopping malls. Needless to say that the government did not consider it important to include Israeli fashion producers, designers, creators and all the small fashion and clothing shops in this bonus program,” the organization tweeted April 27.
Meir explained that the pandemic-induced economic crisis increased the difficulties that the fashion industry has been facing for years. The second wave of the pandemic, with the second lockdown, only made things worse. “After the second lockdown, the government decided to reopen schools, synagogues, the aviation industry and food chains, but not street shops. And so, we were forced to increase our campaign efforts. It was a hard blow for Israeli-made fashion, which is usually sold in such shops in town centers,” he added.
The campaign, according to Meir, was a desperate one, with thousands of shopkeepers taking to the streets of Tel Aviv, burning tires and setting on fire their own merchandise. Shopkeepers carried signs blaming the government for enabling supermarket chains to sell clothes, shoes and toys, while the small shops were ordered to keep their doors shut. People were crying. When that happened, the media paid attention, and so did Netanyahu. The prime minister then decided to reopen the shops partially, even though the Health Ministry was against that.
With all these obstacles, some of the Israeli fashion designers simply gave up on