Sep 17, 2009

Keren Lev Yisrael

This is a post I had meant to write a while back. For whatever reasons, I kept pushing it off, and then forgetting and only remembering at inconvenient times. But I wanted to get this post in before Rosh Hashana.

Keren Lev Yisrael is a local tzedaka organization. They are a sub-division of the Kupa shel RBSA. I don't know exactly what they do and what is in their realm rather than being done under the name of the Kupa, but it doesn't really make a difference..

Keren Lev Yisrael has arranged, over the past few months, large sales of vegetables at much lower prices than anything being sold in the local stores. The goal is to provide savings to the local residents, by buying in bulk and cutting out the middlemen and overhead of the supermarkets. The result is tremendous savings passed on to the residents.

While at first it started out pretty ad hoc and a balagan, they have improved the system tremendously, and they have gone from just fruits and vegetables to also basic goods (disposable plates, baking pans, etc.) and even meats and chickens for the holidays. Now instead of showing up with pushing and shoving as it worked originally with a first come first served attitude, now you order in advance, you show up and pay and walk around and get handed your stuff as you pass the different stations.

The savings are tremendous and are a big help to everybody. The more people that buy, the better the pricing they can get. That helps different people - there is not a single person int he neighborhood who would not benefit form the cheaper prices, even if it is not crucial. If I am now spending 70NIS less per week at the supermarket, that can go towards other things. For the holidays, with the increased purchases, my savings are probably in the range of a couple hundred shekels per week. In addition, with my buying from them, those who are needy are also getting better pricing and the savings for them are even more important.

I know some people are against such sales, as it harms local businesses. I understand the point, but I disagree with it. I see no need for such loyalty to the stores. They are mostly not run by local people, and if local people can benefit from cheaper pricing, I prefer the local benefit rather than the loyalty to chain supermarkets that do everything they can to raise prices and take as much of our money as they can. The supermarkets never showed us loyalty, as they use every possible opportunity to raise their prices (nothing wrong with that, it is business), so I see no reason I have to show them such loyalty.

Also, I see nothing wrong with some competition. Since these sales started, the supermarkets have introduced "Shuk Day" where they lower the prices a couple says a week.

It might harm the local makolets a bit, but I see nothing wrong with some competition. And anyway, the local makolets are not basing their business on fruit and vegetable sales, which is the main part of these sales.

So before Rosh Hashana I want to say thank you to keren Lev Yisrael for the tremendous service they are providing to RBS residents in helping us out with significant savings on our grocery bills.


  1. Its is separate organization from the Kupa because legally an amutah is not allowed to sell anything! So KLY is not officially associated with the Kupah.

  2. I went for the first time last night. At first I went into sensory overload shock - what an unbelievable hubbub! But after a minute or two my senses started functioning, and I was really impressed with how efficient the system was - and how Am Yisrael conducted themselves like the kedoshim they are... it would have been very easy for frustrations to boil over, yet I did not see a single incident of conflict throughout.

    I'm totally for this kind of thing - and if the local storeowners start hurting from it, well and good. That's the free market at work. I cannot believe how fresh produce prices have basically gone back to mid-shmitta levels! If the KLY shuk succeeds in bringing prices back down to reasonable levels, then they'll have done all of RBS another great service!

    Incidentally, I hope the kupa takes a small margin from the sales.

    Another thing I have to note - there were scores of people serving last night... were they all volunteers? If so, WOW. Kol hakavod.

    Overall it's a brilliant service; the only thing IMO that really needs to be attended to is the complete lack of accessible parking, and the disruption caused to traffic on Nachal Ayalon and Nachal Kishon - two main roads (as far as RBS is concerned!) I wonder if there's a vacant lot somewhere that could be used?

  3. Shaul,

    I disagree with your comment abou the local stores. I ordered at pesach time and they ran out of what I needed (and had prepaid for).
    I then went to the local store to fill the void.
    This sale is not around all of the time and there are no guarantees.
    While I think that there is a value to such a serivce we must remember that taking away from the local stores will affect all of us in the long run.

  4. anon - I understand and agree. the local stores are open all the time and not just once a week. they carry "everything" and not just a selected list of items.

    But Pesach time was nothing like now. The new KLY system was not in place. Then you had to go fill out forms and it was a big balagan. Now they have put in a computerized telephone system, and while there might be the occasional errors (it is inevitable), in general the system is pretty good and is still being improved from week to week.

    KLY will nto replace the local stores. They do not sell a wide enough range of products for that to happen, plus people need to shop on other days of the week for items as well.

    But they are providing us with tremendous savings, and perhaps the local stores will bring their prices down to compete better. I paid 6NIS (I think) for 2 kilo of sweet potato yesterday when the local stores are selling sweet potato for 9nis per kilo!

  5. The question of hurting local businesses is significant.

    There's no way even a well run business can fairly compete with a volunteer run (no salaries), zero profit, no rent, non purchase-tax (VAT) paying, non-city-tax paying, non-income tax paying, etc..etc..SUBSIDIZED shuk.

    It is simply NOT "fair competition".

    When it was a small cottage set-up there probably wasn't much impact. But it now involves millions of shekels being diverted from local stores.

    Your Rosh Hashana bargains, Rafi & Shaul, can result in your neighbor losing his/her parnossoh.

    I wonder if anyone from KLY/KST has recently asked a shailo about this?

  6. Competition? - firstly, the shuk is not subsidized, except for people who buy at the "cheaper" rate, supposedly reserved for those who consider themselves in financial distress. It's just leveraging the economic power of group buying.

    Secondly, as Rafi pointed out, the KLY shuk is not going to put any makolet out of business; you will still have to go to Dil v'Zol for your Cheerios, yoghurt, pickles, light bulbs, chewing gum, couscous, mana chama etc. Perhaps the specialist fresh produce stores will feel the pinch. If that forces them to bring their prices down such that they don't have a reasonable margin, then they in turn will pressure their own suppliers on the price. Just think about Rafi's example - if the same sweet potatoes that the KLY shuk sells @ 3 NIS/kg are marked at 9 NIS/kg in the shops, then someone, somewhere is making an obscene margin. I don't begrudge them that, but the free market should be allowed to create a stable equilibrium. No reason why the consumers should have to be freierim in the name of hasagas gvul.

    Thirdly - a tangential observation: why do the (vast?) majority of people who post dissenting views feel the need to use a pseudonym when commenting? It's just an open, healthy debate... it's not as if Rafi (or any of his readers) is going to victimize you, stalk you, boil your pet rabbit in your chicken soup, etc...?

  7. I agree with Rafi and Shaul that this is a great service. Makolet's make much of there money through convenience shopping which will not be affected much and the big chains are not locals and not worried about us but their profits. I don't know details but I imagine the local chains are wildly profitable with the large market that only shops at them. So many families (including mine) struggle from month to month and having a way to lower expenses is of great help.

  8. I acctually did not use this this time around b/c of the ba'al hagan from Pesach. Pretty much I didn't get half my order and I got none of my meat/chicken b/c they sold it off to some guy who didn't order in advance and paid then.

    Though if like you said they are much better organized about it, I might be willing to try it again come Pesach.

    As for the issue of the economic impact of this. If they do indeed wreck the market due to their unfair advantage as anon pointed out, and it doe in fact put some of the other stores out of business, it will be mainly us, who need to purchase other things, or fruits & veges on a day other than Thursday (with advance ordering) who will be hurt, if those stores are no longer there. (sorry about the run-on)

  9. Eliezer - they do this every week now (though at smaller levels). you can make your weekly veggie order through need to wait for pesach. you just have to register first.

    Shaul - and how do you know I won't boil rabbits

  10. ShaulB wrote: Thirdly - a tangential observation: why do the (vast?) majority of people who post dissenting views feel the need to use a pseudonym when commenting?

    BTW, MOST people use pseudonyms or non-names on comments sections of blogs. Period. Not sure why.

    In that environment, one wonders why you, one "ShaulB", add your mugshot?

    Come out of that spotlight, dear fellow ShaulB, and join us in the shadows!

  11. Wouldn't it then be Rabbit soup instead of chicken soup? :-)

  12. I'm curious about some of these great prices you have there (aside from the 3 shekel sweet potatoes)-

    We have a service that sounds similar to this in J-m, but it's not nearly as developed. I go to Rami Levi, and if you know when to go, you're looking at

    .99 for onions/cucumbers/tomatoes
    4.00 bananas, batatas, yellow apples
    6.50 orange and yellow peppers, pomegranates
    8.00 good apples

    In addition, they have sales on (mehadrin) chickens that lower the prices to between 2-4 shekels per kilo! I know that they compete with supersol deal, so they might have similar prices, I'm not sure. I just couldn't imagine prices lower than this, but maybe such a system is worthwhile to implement...


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