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Brooklyn Boycott Boosts Business for Dead Sea Cosmetics

A Brooklyn-based group protesting the sale of Israeli-made Dead Sea products boosts business for a local store. Rabbi Aaron Raskin goes shopping.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 10/3/2010, 12:50 PM / Last Update: 10/3/2010, 12:59 PM

courtesy of Ahava Cosmetic

A Brooklyn-based group trying to convince locals to boycott Israeli-made Dead Sea skin care products has managed to promote the region and boost the company's business better than an ad campaign.

The “Brooklyn for Peace” protesters have been aiming their campaign at one particular cosmetics shop in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, Ricky's of Montague Street, which sells the Ahava skin care line.

Ahava products are  produced at Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, which the Palestinian Authority calls “occupied” territory. (Israel news photo: Jewish Agency for Israel)

However, instead of convincing shoppers to avoid Ahava Skin Care products, protesters instead have helped the store to sell out its stock. The first such boost was in July. But demonstrators tried again last week, with a protest timed to coincide with the end of the 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. And again, the shelves were quickly emptied of Ahava products as Ricky's raked it in.

Leading the shopping spree was Rabbi Aaron Raskin of Congregation B'nai Avraham, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who often interacts with doctors, lawyers and judges in the borough.

In fact, not only did Rabbi Raskin pick up a few of the company's popular products – he also emailed some 2,000 congregants and friends, urging them to pay a visit to the store and do some shopping of their own.

“Anyone who buys Israeli products, including Ricky's, will receive many blessings,” Rabbi Raskin promised. (Israel news photo: courtesy of Ahava Skin Care Products)

Other Efforts to Sidetrack Ahava's Dead Sea Products

There have been a number of efforts to politicize and sabotage sales of Ahava products, both within the borders of Israel, as well as outside the country.

Two boycott campaigns were conducted by the Dutch Socialist Party and the Badjassen Brigade in the Netherlands. The British Oxfam organization also canceled a modeling contract with supermodel Kristin Davis after she was retained to become the spokesperson for Ahava last year. The Palestinian Authority, encouraged by European Union boycotts of products in Judea and Samaria, dumped at least $50,000 worth of Dead Sea cosmetics in trash containers last December as well.

The leftist Gush Shalom movement in Israel has attempted to lead boycotts of the kibbutz where the company is based as well, even calling on performing artists to cancel appearances at the Dead Sea Love Festival last Pesach. 

In 2009, the movement urged the company to move its offices and laboratory further south, past Ein Gedi, where “no one will make claims against you anywhere in the world.”

In response to the pressure from Gush Shalom, Ahava issued a public statement explaining its company's products are “based on minerals from the Dead Sea that are mined from authorized areas. Our activities are undertaken while preserving the beauty of the region and the resources tucked away in it... the natural location of the factory is along the western shore of the Dead Sea.”