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Monday, December 24, 2007

BILU

The year the pogroms began in Russia, 1881, is the year Russian Jews started emigrating in large numbers to the United States. A smaller number of them, however, turned their eyes toward Zion; in 1882, several thousand Russian Jews emigrated to Palestine. Prior to this, most Jews who made aliyah to Israel did so for religious reasons; it was considered meritorious, for example, to die in the Holy Land. Living in Palestine, however, was considerably harder. It was an impoverished land, many — if not most — of whose Jewish inhabitants depended on worldwide Jewish charitable contributions.

In 1882 also, a new Jewish organization was founded that had a very different scenario in mind for Jewish life in Israel. The group was called BILU, an acronym based on a verse from Isaiah (2:5), "Beit Ya'akov Lekhu Ve-nelkha/Let the house of Jacob go!" BILU's founders believed that the time had come for Jews not only to live in Israel, but to make their living there as well.

(courtesy http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/bilu.html )

My family was one of those who opted, at least in the direct line of descent, for the stews of the Lower East Side. Apparently another cadet branch chose Palestine, since we have a steamship record of a much younger brother coming to visit his American brother from Jaffo.

I've often wondered if all those Pausners/Pevsners/Pazners buried in Petah Tikveh are relatives?

BILU was not a particularly successful movement but they did leave their name at Tzomet Bilu, which is today not so much an intersection as a stretch of roadway that embraces a number of shopping centers.

"Bilu" today means that intersection and scads of shopping. I doubt the original quasi-Marxist founders of the movement would be flattered to find that their name has been appended to the best-known source of discount capitalism in Israel.

Because, as almost everyone in Israel except me (until recently in November) knew, Bilu is where you go to get it wholesale...or as close to wholesale as you can be. Clothes, shoes, underwear, china and stoneware and utensils, pots and pans, mattresses, bedroom furniture and household lighting are all available (as are other items I was too tired to explore in depth) at prices that beat anything I've seen in Jerusalem.

I have no idea how to get there by bus. It's next to Mazkeret Batya, which turned out to be a prettier community than I imagined. We got there by taxi since Yossi and his wife spend a LOT of their shopping time there. You take Highway One from Jerusalem down to Latrun and turn "left" on Highway 3. Keep going through a lovely rural countryside until you cross Highway 44 (Tzomet Nachshon) and continue to Road 411, the next right. This meandering country road takes you past some of Israel's oldest collective settlements and ends at Highway 40, just past Mazkeret Batya. Turn right at Highway 40 and you'll see a variety of shopping malls lining the road. This is "Bilu."

Shop 'til you drop.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know there is a street in Katamon called bilu?filled with americans, big, capitalistic free spending Americans. Another great Bilu legacy.Brad

Monday, December 24, 2007 at 10:36:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Baila said...

This big capitalistic free-spending American is there babe! Thanks for the directions, and I'll be looking for a Target :)

Monday, December 24, 2007 at 10:58:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Brad--I think I've been on that street!! Not sure, but your comment jogged my memory....I used to walk that way a lot and I think I stumbled across it one day.

baila--didn't see a Target there, but then again, from what I did see, you don't need Target--it's an entire small town of Target-like prices....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 at 8:17:00 PM GMT+2  

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