Dec 8, 2009

Avoda Zara

The picture is of the store front window of the chain clothing store Zara from a mall north of Haifa.

If you look at the picture, you might notice that they have "Merry Christmas" splayed across the window, along with the display consisting of Christmas holiday colors and Christmas trees.

The only problem with this situation is that the store, as mentioned, is located in Israel. Not in Spain where the main headquarters is, not in Europe or the USA, not in a Christian country, but in predominantly Jewish Israel.

It is a shonda that a store in Israel has such a display. Even if there excuse is true, that they are dictated by the main office in Spain what to display (and all stores have uniform displays), it makes no sense that they would not adjust the display to the local market. Even if they insisted in Christmas trees for the non-Jewish market in Israel, they are foolish for not catering to the much larger Jewish market and putting in symbols of Hannukah, like menorahs and dreidels.

It makes no sense, and was likely done without thought. But after the first few hundred calls of customers complaining about it, they should have removed the display right away.

I hope people "punish" Zara for the stupidity, and for their insistence on remaining stupid instead of taking it down right away after the first few calls, and shop elsewhere.

What kind of excuse is "We wanted to allow our customers to enjoy.. the atmosphere of the holiday and the internationality..." anyway?


  1. The only way to get the point across to people like those at the corporate offices of Zara is to hit them where it hurts. If no Jews shop there as long as the window (and any inside) display reflects a christian theme, the message should be loud and clear enough for them to "get it". And maybe they'll repent by throwing a huge sale based on a Jewish theme (I know, that's a pretty far fetched dream)!

    Sadly, there are many secular Jews in this country who won't be phased by the christian advertising.

    May Hashem bring Mashiach soon!

  2. they would not put up a Xmas display in Saudai Arabia

  3. Haifa is a fairly mixed Arab and Jewish city and I think most Arabs are Christian Arabs. Also, a most Russian immigrants celebrate Christmas like Americans celebrate Thanksgiving- it's a nice cultural holiday for them from their years in the USSR (which officially banned the practice of religion, don't forget!).

    I would be more shocked if you told me this storefront was in J-m or even Tel Aviv (though I'd believe it if it was TA. I really doubt they made such a display in Malcha.) You have to understand the context. Not every town in Israel is Beit Shemesh, and like it or not, Christmas is getting to be more popular in Israel. We go through this every year, it seems.

  4. Abbi - it would be understandable, as I said, to a certain extent, if they also displayed a menorah and dreidels and siad happy hannukah. Then their claim of being sensitive to all religions, and catering to all the local clientele of varying religions, would be more palatable.

    But they only had christmas decorations and nothing about hannukah, and nothing from Islam either by the way, though if they wanted to I dont know what Muslim holiday is approaching...

    so that claim rings hollow.

  5. Many non-Jewish stores in America (a predominantly non-Jewish country, in case you forgot) have Chanukah displays, and no one gets upset. In addition, and more to the point, many Jewish-owned businesses with non-Jewish clientele put up Chanukah displays and not Christmas displays, and no one seems to care, either.

    The fact that the display wasn't "balanced" is irrelevant, and has its roots in political correctness (or political preferredness, as I like to call it), not in logic. There's no requirement to balance any displays to avoid hurting people's feelings (as if someone's feelings would be hurt because Zara didn't wish them a happy Chanukah).

    Yes, their excuse was pretty lame (and seems to have been made up only after they got complaints), but is it really that big a deal? It's a private company, and can make whatever marketing decisions it wants. Complaining to them makes it seem as if you think they owe you something.

    I also don't understand your reasoning: you're willing to concede that the types of displays they put up are dictated by the main office in Spain (i.e., you admit that their hands are tied), but then you say that they should make up their own display anyway. I would imagine that it's more important to them to keep their franchise license than to put up a picture of a dreidel.

    Why should they be "punished" for their stupidity? If you're sure that they were out to offend, then you might want to consider a boycott. But punishment for stupidity? Are you a bad guy from a cheesy movie?

  6. Yoni - what they do elsewhere doesnt interest me. Israel is a Jewish country, and I find it inappropriate to have such a display up. If they were in a predominantly Chistian area, or even just an area that caters to large amount of Christians that would be one thing, but they are not (and from the fact that this was not their explanation shows that this was also not their intent). At least a majority of their clientele are jewish, and such a display is offensive.

    They dont owe me anything. But I also dont owe them anything. if they feel the need to display Christmas decorations in their store in Israel, I hope their Jewish customers, who also owe them nothing, will take their business elsewhere.

    I dont concede anything. That is the excuse they made up. And it makes no sense. They might dictate, but then it is bad business if they are not willing to adjust their marketing to local culture, in any given country. That is, if the response was even true. As a previous commenter noted, does the Zara chain in Saudi Arabia also display Christmass decorations?

    The initial placement of the decorations was stupidity. Refusing to take it down after realizing the mistake is worse. I doubt they are out to offend, but I still think it is inappropriate and if they refuse to be sensitive to local culture and instead promotoe Christian culture, I have no problem saying that Jews should be shopping elsewhere. Let all the Christians shop there and let the Jews shop in stores that are more sensitive to Jewish values and culture.

    As more and more Christian values and culture are mad mainstream into Israeli culture, it opens us up to more and more likelihood of disenfranchised youth finding their way to Christian culture. Why should we promote that?

  7. Just to clarify, you agree that a Jewish owned business in America should not have a Chanuka display? I come to this conclusion (i.e., that it is your opinion) by doing two things:

    1) assuming that the US is pretty much a Christian (including all denominations) country; and
    2) reading your response, but flipping the references to Judaism and Christianity (ignoring Saudi Arabia; there's no freedom of expression there, so the analogy, while a good one, fails to get off the ground in my eyes).

    If you don't like my first assumption, replace the US with Italy, the Vatican, England (they have their own church), or some other clearly Christian country.

    Let's not forget as well that the Christmas story is purported to have taken place here. Surely that carries some weight.

    I forgot to mention, I think the title of the post is really good.

  8. yoni - thanks. I did not make up the title though. It is being used pretty much everywhere I have seen anything written about the topic.

    When a business is private, things are different. If I own my own business, I can do whatever I want. I should still be sensitive to my target audience. I might own a store in the heart of Kiryat Yoel, and if my target audience is the Sqver Hassidim, I likely would not put out a christmas tree even if I wanted to.

    When the business is a corporation, they too can do whatever they want, but I also have the right to not shop there if they offend my sensibilities or values. A business being a corporation means it is not some guys mom and pop store, where it is his holiday to celebrate as well. the corp is faceless and should either not be celebrating holidays or if they do (for marketing reasons obviously) should do so according to the local customs. At least in part. It would not be as big a deal if they put up menorahs or a hannukah bush in addition to the christmas tree....

  9. 1) So you agree with my assessment about Jewish-owned businesses in the US.

    2) I don't see why you're offended. (It seems no more offensive than when I wish the Arab guy in my office a "Shana Tova" before Rosh Hashana.) At worst they're being stupid, not offensive. I refer you to my comment about the bad guy in a cheesy movie. Let it go.

    As a side note, I was once asked by a co-worker in the States if Jews celebrate Christmas. I answered, "We killed him, remember?" That seemed to satisfy her.

  10. They're obviously going after the under-served Baha'i market.

  11. Get a life - just don't buy a dress in Zara until they take it down, ok? We are not Muslims who take "offense" at seeing something that makes fun of our religion or celebrates a different religion. Nobody asked you to look.

  12. did I say anybody should riot? all I said is that I hope jewish customers show the company that this is a Jewish country and we dont want to be inundated with Christianity. They do that by shopping elsewhere int he meantime.

  13. Rafi, this hope is in vain. Zara shoppers are very loyal, particularly the charedi ones. You should see the Malcha store around Rosh Hashana.

  14. more so than customers of other stores? why would that be?

  15. They sell nicer (then the average Israeli store) relatively modest and relatively cheap shabbat clothes for kids and adults. The kid section is absolutely mobbed with chassidic and charedi women erevei chaggim, at least in J-m.

    So, this is actually a good time for them to put up Christams decorations because nobody's shopping now anyway.

    Also, among the general secular population, Christmas is becoming more fashionable. Many clubs in TA hold Christmas dance parties.

  16. Just want to add that the only place to find these types of nicer, fancier shabbat clothes is deep in the heart of Bnei Brak and Geula, but even then usually Zara is cheaper.


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